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Xavier Worthy has seen it all in the past three years of Texas’ resurgence 

Steve Habelby:Steve Habel12/30/23


NEW ORLEANS — Lost in the pomp and anticipation in the runup to No. 3 Texas’ clash with second-ranked Washington in Monday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans is that the College Football Playoff semifinal could be the final time record-setting wide receiver Xavier Worthy plays for the Longhorns.

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If that’s the case, expect Worthy to go out with a flurry – and to make his presence felt in the biggest game of his life.

Although he is just a junior, Worthy is expected to forego the remainder of his collegiate eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft, where the lightning-quick wideout is projected to be an early-round pick.

Worthy is one of the survivors on this Texas team that endured the struggle of growth and resurgence under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian. He set the world on fire as the Longhorns struggled to a 5-7 season in 2021, then battled through an unreported broken hand injury his sophomore campaign when his production dropped and Texas went 8-5.

“The off seasons – the off seasons were so crazy,” Worthy said about the work put in by the team to get to this lofty position. “I don’t want to get into that (laughs). Really, I think the culture and the team’s morale changed. That was the biggest part that got us here.”

This year Worthy returned with a vengeance as one of the focal points of the Longhorns’ potent offensive attack, catching 73 passes for 939 yards and five touchdowns and returning 20 punts for an average of 17.9 per chance and going 74 yards for a score.

Texas and the Huskies are meeting for the second straight year in the postseason, with Washington making just enough plays to beat the Longhorns 27-20 in last year’s Valero Alamo Bowl. Worthy dropped two deep passes that could have been difference-makers in that game but has learned from those mistakes.

“It’s the highs and lows of football,” he said. “It’s what you got to love about football. I have definitely learned from it and had to overcome it. I have put that game in the past and overcome it.”

Worthy has been bothered with an ankle injury from the Big 12 Championship but said Friday that he’s close to 100 percent and working to get there before Monday’s game.

Texas will attempt to break the Huskies’ 20-game winning streak dating back to October of 2022. If the Longhorns – who are on a seven-game winning streak of their own — can beat Washington, they will face either No. 1 Michigan or No. 4 Alabama in the national championship game.

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“If we stay together and stay true to ourselves,” Worthy said. “We don’t want to get out of whack. We need to play our game. The game that we normally play; if we do that we will be just fine. We have a really good and experienced team. Everybody knows the goal coming into this game. Everybody has that message, and we are all locked in.” 

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