AUSTIN (KXAN) — Going into a bye week, Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian said his team has to develop more depth and get healthy.
During a press conference Monday, Sarkisian said defensive back Anthony Cook broke his arm in the 41-34 loss to Oklahoma State and is week-to-week. Since Cook also plays special teams, Sarkisian said it’s paramount that this week of practice is focused on getting younger players ready to play more snaps. He said the team is “a little banged up,” so the bye week comes at a convenient time.
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“We need to gain trust in them to put them on the field,” Sarkisian said. “We’ll need to rely on some of the younger players, not just on offense and defense, but on special teams as well.”
Sarkisian said they are going to monitor Cook’s health, but it is possible he can play against Kansas State in two weeks. With Jerrin Thompson and Jahdae Barron also holding down key secondary spots, along with special teams, the defensive backfield is of utmost importance to develop the reserve players while there’s a break in the schedule.
“We’ve got to find some players that can contribute 10-12 snaps on special teams while being a backup on defense,” he said.
While he acknowledged it was frustrating that the Longhorns didn’t seize the moment in the second half and take advantage of opportunities Oklahoma State gave them, he said in the bigger picture, there are even more opportunities to take advantage of.
“There’s a lot of football left to be played in the Big 12,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve got a great opportunity with some quality opponents coming down the barrel, but we’ve got to control what we can control. As I tell the players, we’ve got to mow our own lawn.”
Part of that, which is a metaphor for controlling what they do as a team, is dialing back the penalties that killed them during the Oklahoma State game. Texas had 14 penalties enforced against them for 119 yards, and many of them were pre-snap penalties that either gave the Cowboys a first down in critical down-and-distance scenarios or put them in a better position to convert. It also didn’t help matters that Oklahoma State wasn’t hit with any penalties.
“We addressed this morning and we’ll address it throughout the week, and it goes back to practice habits,” he said. “We practice hard and tough, not ever questioning that about our team, but we need to practice smart and understand the situations within practice we create so when they come up in a game, they know how to handle it.”
Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers didn’t play his best against the Cowboys, that much was clear. He completed just 37% of his passes, ending 19 of 49 for 319 yards with a pair of touchdowns and three interceptions. The last interception, which was during a frantic last drive to try to tie the game, bounced off the hands of tight end JT Sanders and was picked off, so that throw wasn’t totally on him. However, Sarkisian said he would have liked “more precision in the passing game.”
“That starts in practice and really making a point and emphasis of timing, where we’re at on the field, when the ball should be thrown and the spacing,” Sarkisian said. “That’s going back to work, and getting guys working well together with Quinn, the tight ends and wide receivers. We’re a little bit off.”
He said there were some positives in the passing game, but also some “opportunities they’d love to have back.” To Sarkisian’s point, Ewers still threw for more than 300 yards and that just doesn’t happen on its own, but again, the bye week is going to allow the offense more time to develop a deeper rapport.
He also said he didn’t consider benching Ewers for backup Hudson Card during the game, even though Ewers struggled.
“The quarterback position gets way too much credit when things go good, and way too much blame when things go bad,” Sarkisian said. “Everybody has to assume their own responsibility in that. There’s definitely room for growth. He’s still a young player for us and he’s got a bright future ahead of him. Hopefully, we can clean up some of the issues we had so going into next week he’s back to razor-sharp.”
The players didn’t practice Monday, but they will practice the rest of the week and have the weekend off to spend time with their families, Sarkisian said.
“We’ve gone 12 straight weeks, and I think they need an opportunity to see their loved ones and take a step back,” Sarkisian said. “But I also think there’s a reflection needed. Yeah, watch the Oklahoma State-Kansas State game, reflect on it and look at it from a different perspective. When we get back together on Sunday night, it’s time to go again.”