AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Longhorns head football coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday that the coaches “write the script” and the players “make the movie.” After Saturday’s performance against Kansas, it seems like the Longhorns should get some Oscar buzz.
The 55-14 blockbuster win over the Jayhawks on the road set the Longhorns up for a win-and-hope scenario to make it to the Big 12 Conference championship game set for Dec. 3 at AT&T Stadium. TCU has already clinched a spot in the title game, and the Longhorns would love another crack at the Horned Frogs.
MORE THAN THE SCORE: Stay up to date on sports stories like these, and sign up for our More than the Score sports newsletter at kxan.com/newsletters
Before they start thinking about that, however, they have to beat Baylor on Friday and then get some help from the team they recently pummeled. The Jayhawks have to beat the Kansas State Wildcats in order to force a tie between the Longhorns and Wildcats in the Big 12 standings. Texas owns the tiebreaker with its 34-27 win over the Wildcats earlier in the season, but the two Sunflower State rivals don’t play until Saturday night, so eating Thanksgiving leftovers might come with a little anxiety for the Longhorns if they take care of business Friday.
“We have a great opportunity this Friday,” Sarkisian said. “It’s a great challenge ahead of us, and I’m looking forward to a Thanksgiving ballgame. This feels kind of like a playoff game. We have to do our part, and then see what happens.”
It’s the first time in Sarkisian’s tenure that the Longhorns have won consecutive road games, and coincidentally both of them were in Kansas. Sarkisian said the feeling after a big win can’t be one of relief, it has to stoke an even bigger fire in the team to go out and win another game.
“I’ve always challenged our guys to when you get good victories, that it’s not a time to relax,” Sarkisian said. “It’s the time to dig deeper and hone in with even more mental intensity. We have a lot to be proud of this season, but there’s more work to do.”
For his efforts against the Jayhawks, Texas running back Bijan Robinson won the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week award, announced Monday by the conference. Robinson was an obvious choice after rushing for a career-high 243 yards with four touchdowns, but it also helped fuel the idea that perhaps Robinson will forego his senior season and go to the NFL. After Big 12 play Saturday, Robinson leads the conference in both rushing yards (1,401) and touchdowns (16) and is ranked in the top 10 nationally in both categories.
Sarkisian said he puts off those conversations until after the season is over. He said it could “create clutter,” and would rather just wait until after the regular season.
“I know he wants to come in here Friday and play well,” Sarkisian said. “When that time comes, when the regular season dies down, we’ll have those discussions with him and his family, and get the necessary information in place for him to make a really good decision.”
When asked if Name, Image and Likeness deals could potentially keep players in college because they’re able to make money, unlike in recent years, Sarkisian said that’s certainly possible and it’s “not necessarily a bad thing.” Robinson has several NIL deals in place, most notably with Lamborghini of Austin and his own brand of mustard, Bijan Mustardson.
“I think NIL may play a factor in some guys’ decisions to turn pro or not,” Sarkisian said. “If it’s a way for a kid to want to stay in school, earn their degree and be part of a university, that’s a positive.”
As far as Baylor goes, the Bears were dealt a crushing loss Saturday at home. They had undefeated TCU on the ropes the entire game, nearly pulling off the biggest upset of the Big 12 season, but Horned Frogs head coach Sonny Dykes had his field goal unit ready for action. They rushed onto the field with about 15 seconds left in the game, and Griffin Kell booted a game-winning 40-yard field goal to win 29-28 and silenced everyone in green and gold.
Sarkisian expects Baylor to come to Austin with a chip on its shoulder and to give the Longhorns everything they have.
“They’ve got great balance,” he said. “I’m impressed with their ability to run the football with different runners. I think the quarterback [Blake Shapen] has really emerged with his style of play, and the offensive line is athletic and they have a good scheme.”
Sarkisian said the Bears are “big and physical up front,” and he has a deep respect for Bears head coach Dave Aranda.
“Tough losses happen, and they took the No. 4 team to the brink,” Sarkisian said. “In the end, that’s what our conference is about. The Big 12 is tough, week in and week out, you’ve got to play your best football to come out on top. I know they’ll be hungry at 11 a.m. on Friday.”