AUSTIN (KXAN) — Even after the 37-34 overtime loss Saturday to Texas Tech, a game in which the Longhorns blew a two-touchdown lead in the second half, head coach Steve Sarkisian still thinks the team is improving from last season.
In Monday’s press conference, while giving Texas Tech credit for playing a good game, said “self-inflicted wounds” was what ultimately led to the loss. Last season, Texas blew first-half leads four times — including a three-touchdown lead over Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown.
Sarkisian said the team’s improvement is rooted in the process, and sometimes a singular result doesn’t mean progress hasn’t been made.
“I know sometimes the results don’t look that way, but I think we’re a better football team,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in the work the players and coaches have put into this. I feel good about where we’re at as a program, but we got to put it out in the field every Saturday.”
Inconsistency is a progress killer, and Sarkisian said that’s the next piece the Longhorns have to implement, or else this is going to keep happening.
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“Naturally, the consistency factor is critical,” Sarkisian said. “We can’t afford to have lapses in consistency in play and preparation or we’ll get the result that we had.”
Those consistency issues were glaring on fourth down for the Longhorns. Granted, it is unusal for a team to go for it on fourth down eight times in a game, but the Red Raiders converted six of those attempts with two coming at critical times in the fourth quarter.
With 8:12 left in the fourth, Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith converted a 4th-and-5 play with a 6-yard scramble that set up the game-tying score — a 19-yard pass from Smith to Baylor Cupp with 7:54 left. That was the fifth conversion on fourth down for the Red Raiders.
Their final conversion came with 2:08 left in regulation when Smith hit Myles Price with a pass over the middle to get the Red Raiders close to field goal range. A defensive holding penalty on Texas put the Red Raiders in feld goal range, and then Trey Wolff knocked a 45-yarder through to give Tech the lead late.
“We didn’t play very smart,” Sarkisian said. “I think that we have a standard here and a style of play that we take pride in, and we didn’t play to that standard.”
Sarkisian has talked multiple times about the team finding its “killer instinct,” that attitude and mindset to turn a two-score lead into a three-score lead and so forth late in games. It’s not taking your foot off the gas pedal when you’ve got a team on the ropes, and the Longhorns just simply didn’t do that against the Red Raiders.
Following Bijan Robinson’s 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give the Longhorns a 31-17 lead, it felt like the Longhorns had found it. Clearly, that wasn’t the case.
“It just has to happen,” Sarkisian said. “At some point in there you gain confidence from doing it, and hopefully we continue to put ourselves in the position to do it. Once you do it once, you can do it twice and so on. We need to continue to push toward that and get a sense for what it feels like by doing it.”
Perhaps the Longhorns can figure out how to finish off a conference opponent Saturday against West Virginia. However, the Mountaineers are the only team in the Big 12 that Texas doesn’t have a winning record against at 5-6. Historically speaking, the Mountaineers are very good in Austin with four wins in the six trips.