AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas football is losing impact players on the field after a historic loss at home to Kansas over the weekend. First-year Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian met with the media Monday to break down Saturday’s game while looking ahead to West Virginia.
The Longhorns travel to West Virginia for an 11 a.m. Saturday kickoff this week. Texas needs to win its final two games to reach bowl eligibility.
Saturday’s loss to the Jayhawks was historic for all of the wrong reasons. It was Texas’ first home loss to Kansas in the history of the program. This was Kansas’ first Big 12 road win since 2008.
For the first time since 1956, Texas has lost five-straight games in a season. That’s the season before Darrell K Royal took over the Longhorns football program.
Texas also lost running back Bijan Robinson for the season in the loss. Starting defensive back Josh Thompson is also out for the season with a fractured fibula.
Here’s what Sarkisian said Monday.
“Clearly the first half of that game was not the competitive football that I know we’re capable of playing. The turnovers were very difficult to overcome. We’re talking about a 14-14 game that flipped itself to 35-14. I was impressed with our guys fight in the second half. You get to overtime…you’re talking about one-play games. You put yourself in that position because you played that way in the first half. Obviously, the turnovers on offense were killers. I’ve never been part of the game when you lose the turnover battle 4-0 and win Clearly the ball is an issue. Clearly we’ve got things to work on.”
Bijan Robinson (RB) – Dislocated elbow
Josh Thompson (DB) – Fractured fibula
Jonathon Brooks (RB) – Shoulder injury
Sarkisian’s big picture approach for Texas
“The big picture for us…we have to control what we can control. That starts with our preparation and our focus on West Virginia. Clearly, everybody’s upset, we’re upset, everybody feels the frustration in what has occurred. But I can assure you…nobody is more upset than we are in the performance. We put in a lot of time and a lot of work not to play the football that is the standard at the University of Texas. That is directly on me. We’ve got our work cut out for us on that end. You’ve got to find your way through it.”
How is the team handling a five-game losing streak?
“You have to know what you sign up for. You don’t take the job at the University of Texas without the expectation of scrutiny. It might not just be smooth sailing all of the way. There’s going to be rocky waters…you have to recognize there’s scrutiny. Sometimes in the struggle, you start to get more clarity. Sometimes those issues get masked over with winning. Playing bad and winning is sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you because it masks a lot of the issues. We navigate our way through it.”
Has anyone from administration told you that staff changes need to be made?
“No one’s told me that at all. When I got hired, they gave me the resources was arguably the best staffs in the country. These guys didn’t forget to coach overnight. They’ve been doing it for a long time. They’re championship caliber coaches. They’ve competed for championships, they’ve won championships at the college ranks or the NFL. I’ve got a lot of belief in our staff. This isn’t a negative…when the season comes to an end, I evaluate everything in our program. I’m going to evaluate nutrition, strength and conditioning…no, I have not been told that I need to make changes.”
What have you been able to pinpoint for the defense’s failures?
“I think it’s been frustrating for everybody. To be fair to our players, this is their third consecutive year in a new defensive scheme. When you have consistency in the scheme, who have been in the same system over time…they’re working together…we’re still in the phase where we’re trying to get things taught. There’s a little bit of hesitation on our part and we’re not fitting things correctly. Clearly, we’re frustrated that we’re not playing the way we think we are capable of playing. We’re just not quite there yet.”
How much does attrition play a part in a college football program?
“Attrition for me…it’s part of college football. When I assessed this job coming in, I noticed there was more attrition than normally. We’re feeling the effects of the 2018 and 2019 recruiting class, 50% are no longer with our program. You deal with those issues. How do you develop the players? How do you get depth back on your roster? We didn’t have any outside linebackers on our roster before the season. The best teams overtime are veteran-laden teams. We don’t have that luxury right now which is OK. We’re rapidly trying to increase this roster…right now, we’re just not that team.”
Do you expect this rebuild to take longer than previously thought?
“The reality of it is…these things take time. I’m as impatient as anybody else. We all want it to happen quicker. That’s why we do what we do everyday. When we do breakthrough, we’ve got everything in place to charge forward and do it for a long time.”
How much roster change do you expect in the offseason?
“I’m looking at the way this thing is shaping up…I could easily see us with 33 new scholarship players on our team next season. The transfer portal…we have to find the right balance with how much we interact with the portal as opposed to how much we dive into recruiting really good young players. You think about 33 new scholarship players…that’s a pretty big number, but that’s part of the process.”
Will you get more involved in the defense?
“From a defensive perspective, I would envision that happening as we move into the offseason, I felt it was so important to get us settled down…I had to focus in to what we were doing offensively. I do think I have some real experience and expertise in coaching football where I can add some value into what we’re installing. I’m getting used to how people are attacking us in this conference and maybe a different way to defend things.”
What was the plan for the quarterbacks against Kansas? Has Casey Thompson earned the right to start?
“The idea going into the game was the Casey was going to play the first two series of the game and then Hudson was going to play the third series and then we were going to monitor from there. Unfortunately, for Hud, two turnovers on those drives. Casey played his tail off. Obviously, going into this game, Casey is going to be our starting quarterback. I think Casey is a microcosm of the entire roster. It’s about consistency. It’s about playing with consistency. Ultimately, for us as a team, I want to see us play a complete football game in all three phases. At what point are we going to be able to put all three phases together and play with consistency.”
Is there a chance Jordan Whittington could play this season?
“I think there is a chance Jordan Whittington could play this weekend. One, he’s an exceptional football player and he’s a great leader on our team since the day I arrived.”
What has Bijan Robinson meant to the team this season?
“Who he represents as a human being, as a person, is even better than what everybody gets to see on Saturday on the field. This guy embodies what a champion looks like. He’s a warrior. He wants the ball. He wants the opportunity to get the ball in his hands. We want him to get healthy and get back because I think he’s primed for a big time junior season.”