AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas football opens the Big 12 schedule at home against Texas Tech Saturday at 11 a.m. at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The evaluation period of the Steve Sarkisian era of Longhorns football truly starts now as Texas pursues a Big 12 championship.
The Longhorns opened as 10-point favorites over the Red Raiders, according to oddsmakers. Last season in Lubbock, Texas and Texas Tech played a wild, overtime thriller with the Longhorns coming out with a 63-56 win. It was the second game of the 2020 season and showed the first cracks of a flawed Texas team.
Sarkisian met with the media ahead of the Texas Tech game, saying he expects this year’s version of the Texas-Tech game to be much different than the back-and-forth, touchdown fest of 2020.
After making his starting debut for the Longhorns last week against Rice, Sarkisian says Casey Thompson is expected to make his second college start this week.
On Monday morning, here’s what Sarkisian said about the Big 12 opener.
Sarkisian’s initial thoughts on Texas Tech
“We’re on to this one and we’re getting ready to play a very good Texas Tech team. I have a bunch of respect for Coach Wells. I think his team has bought into his style of play. The transfers they’ve brought in have been very beneficial to them. We’ve got our work cut out for us, for sure.”
On if he has to prepare the team for hostility against Big 12 teams with the SEC move ahead
“I try not to dwell too much there. Just try to recognize that every time we go out, we’re going to get our opponent’s best shot. We also recognize we’re the University of Texas and we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. That start today in our practice this morning.”
What is Texas’ identity?
“I think you have to compartmentalize things. I think you have to break down not only offense, defense, special teams, but areas that we’re good at and areas that we need to improve at. We’ve got plenty of things to work on and we’ve got plenty of things to grow as a team.”
Who will Texas start at quarterback?
“Casey is going to go Saturday. Ideally, I would love to play Hudson Saturday as well. But every flow of every game is different. They’re all worth the same technically. Obviously Big 12 play…we’re 0-0. We’ve got to focus on the process to get us to 1-0. If Hudson can provide an opportunity to get in the game and provide something for the team, we’ll definitely get him in there.”
Does Casey Thompson turn it on in games compared to practice?
“That’s a good notion. When you watch players and try to evaluate players, especially at the quarterback position….Ultimately, the thing I like to look for is the trajectory that the player gets better as the competition rises. I think the challenge in evaluating quarterbacks is guys can look really good throwing individual routes, 7-on-7…but their play can maybe level off. I think Casey is the classic example…I think his level of play continues to rise based on the arena that he’s in and that’s a really cool quality to have because we don’t play quarterback in t-shirt and shorts. You still have to deal with the pressures of playing the game and I think he’s got something about him that feels comfortable in that arena of a real game. Sometimes that’s hard to tell until guys into an actual game so hopefully we can continue to build on it for him.”
How will Sarkisian prepare for Texas Tech?
“My leadership is vitally important every game. I’m a leader of men first whether that’s on the field or off the field. Shoot, half of our meeting today…I don’t think it pertained to football but that’s just part of the process of developing these guys into men. Not to mention to lead them into a football game and lead them into a conference game, where they feel I’m confident in them but I’m demanding in them in the things that are needed to get that done. I think both teams are really two different teams for a year ago. I think they’re dramatically improved. Clearly schematically, we’re very different with a new coaching staff. I don’t like predicting but I’d be hard pressed to think that that’s going to be the style of the game and the score of the game Saturday.”
What does Sarkisian think about the pass rush?
“The pass rush has been good. I thought it was at its best in week one. In week two, it was borderline non-existent. Last week I thought it was good when the opportunities presented itself. We try to pride ourselves on playing complimentary football. It’s a lot easier to rush the passer when you stop the run and you can control the game offensively and get a lead and do your part offensively to try to make them one dimensional. Do I think we can be better? No question. We’re going to need that pass rush as we work our way through the season.”
Does Sarkisian focus on getting Texas to the Big 12 championship game?
“I wasn’t here the last decade. I pay attention to what has happened. I try to be where my feet are and now my feet are at Texas. We’re not here to make up for anything in the past. We’re here to do the best job that we can do this season and that’s the next challenge we have is Saturday against Texas Tech. I think it’s a slippery slope when you try to look down the road of what could be and then you get hit in the mouth with what’s right in front of us. We have a lot of respect for our opponent that are in front of us but right now our focus is about us and what we need to do to be the best team we can be.”