With Big 12 dreams in the balance, Bijan Robinson ‘showed up’ Saturday

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When the Texas Longhorns absolutely had to win to keep their dream of winning a Big 12 Conference championship alive, Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian said one thing needed to happen.

“No. 5’s gotta show up tonight,” he said right before kickoff.

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No. 5 certainly did that.

Bijan Robinson, Texas’ junior running back, showcased all the skills that make NFL scouts salivate against the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday. He rushed for a career-high 243 yards on 25 carries with four touchdowns, and more so doing it for his potential future in professional football, he did it for the other guys wearing burnt orange.

“He does things we all marvel at,” Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “But I think his competitive spirit gets overlooked a little bit. He knew what today was going to be, and he showed up and played hard. He ran it hard and was explosive. He knew how important this game was to everybody.”

It was simple coming into the game: win and still have a chance at making it to the Big 12 championship game, or lose and be mathematically eliminated. Robinson knew that, and despite frigid temperatures, he put his discomfort aside for his teammates.

“I had to do whatever I could to help the team win,” he said. “When I got off the plane, I said it was going to be a cold one, so I knew we had to run the ball to be successful.”

Texas running back Bijan Robinson celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Kansas during the second quarter of an NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022 in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

It’s the selfless attitude that has helped get him where he is today, the top rusher in the Big 12 Conference and No. 8 in FBS with a 127.4 yards per game average. He’s improved his output every season, and this year he’s played in all 11 of Texas’ games so far, also a career-high. He’ll have at least two more to play this season against Baylor and the bowl game the Longhorns are invited to, but possibly he’ll get another one if the chips fall right and the Longhorns make it to the conference championship game.

“You don’t get to where you’re at in your career by just being talented,” Sarkisian said. “He loves the competition. Sometimes when we go good-on-good in practice and we pull him out, he’s chomping at the bit to get back in there. I think that’s what he’s made of. He’s a special person beyond a special player.”

To close out the second half, Robinson accounted for the final 26 yards of Texas’ offense on a pair of runs. He showed the national TV audience on FS1 his power and ability to break tackles and his speed to run by people. The first run, a 25-yard burst down to the Kansas 1-yard line, probably should have ended in points because of how impressive it was. He took a handoff and ran straight up the middle, shedding two tackles, and then made a lateral cut that made other defenders miss. He continued by sprinting down the sideline before being pushed out near the goal line.

“It was almost like one of those moments in practice where everyone oohed and awwed from the sidelines, as he was still running,” Sarkisian said. “He does stuff like that a lot.”

After an officials review denied him the touchdown and ruled him out, there was still time left for him to finish off the drive. He did so in dramatic fashion, taking another handoff and launching himself over the line, landing on his head for the score and giving the Longhorns a 31-0 lead at halftime.

“It just shows what he’s made of,” Sarkisian said. “He loves his teammates.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers said Robinson’s a “freak of nature.”

“I’ve never seen a guy like him before,” Ewers said. “He can really do it all, and I’m excited to see his path and how it plays out.”

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