AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns kick off the 2022 season at home Saturday against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, and one thing head coach Steve Sarkisian isn’t worried about is pressure.
Coming off a disappointing 5-7 season in his first year as the Longhorns head coach certainly wasn’t ideal. Given how quickly college athletic programs cycle through coaches who don’t meet expectations (or who powerful alums simply deem unworthy), it’s easy to assume Sarkisian could feel his seat getting warm.
He doesn’t see it like that, however. When others may feel pressure, he feels it’s an opportunity.
“I’ve never shied away from a challenge or an opportunity,” he said. “One of the keys is that you acknowledge what you sign up for. There’s a standard at the University of Texas, it’s a standard of excellence. You know what you sign up for when you come here. I don’t view it as, ‘Boy, this is overwhelming,’ or this is a lot or these expectations are too much. This is why I came here; I came here to be great. I came here to try to accomplish something special.”
Sarkisian’s philosophy of “love what you do and do what you love,” is obvious — he’s been an assistant or head coach in both the college and NFL ranks since 2000, a year after he concluded his playing career in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. And even against a Group of 5 opponent like the Warhawks, he’s not taken anything for granted.
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“I love driving into this stadium every day, walking into the facility and seeing everyone, knowing how hard they work,” he said. “This is more about getting to go do what we love to do. That doesn’t mean I don’t get the butterflies in me, of course I do, that’s the competitor in me … in the end, this is what I signed up for and I love it.”
Looking at the Warhawks
The Warhawks are coached by Terry Bowden, a 25-year coaching veteran and part of the legendary Bowden family of college football coaches. While it’s only his second year leading the Warhawks, he has Sarkisian’s immediate attention because of his track record. Bowden led Auburn to an undefeated season in 1993 and has an overall coaching record of 179-122-2.
Bowden has new offensive and defensive coordinators this year, but Sarkisian said the players who will take the field for the Warhawks will present “a big challenge.”
“They have a lot of playmakers coming back,” he said. “Their quarterback is an electric guy who can do it on the ground, through the air, and they have two good runners and receivers that can create explosive plays.”
Sophomore Chandler Rogers, who played in all 12 games for the Warhawks as a freshman, won the starting job in training camp. He started six games as a freshman last season and accounted for nearly 1,700 yards of total offense and 10 touchdowns. He threw for 1,311 yards and rushed for 367, so Sarkisian said they’re preparing for a dual-threat type quarterback.
Another weapon for the Warhawks, and perhaps the kid with the best name in all of college football, is wide receiver Boogie Knight. After transferring from Akron before last season, Knight danced around defenders for a team-high 588 yards on 43 receptions and three touchdowns. He also racked up 824 all-purpose yards when his return numbers are added in.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces on defense, and we’ve got our work cut out for us schematically,” Sarkisian said. “But more importantly, this week has got to be about us playing our game at a really high level, and quite frankly, seeing who is ready for the moment.”
Blocking for Bijan
Texas running back Bijan Robinson is getting well-deserved preseason accolades and has some lofty goals. In order to keep the hype train rolling, he needs to have a big game against the Sun Belt Conference foes. In order to do that, the big boys up front need to pave the way for him.
Junior Angilau was lost for the season with a torn ACL in an early scrimmage, but the Horns have plenty of beef on the offensive front. With Christian Jones and Jake Majors anchoring the line, they’ll help shepherd along seven freshman linemen on the Longhorns roster.
“It has been really fun to see all the young guys just come out and get it,” Jones said, “and to see how focused they are, how driven they are. It reminds me of me my freshman year.”
When asked if the young players were more mature them him at that age, Jones said “yeah,” with a huge smile.
“They’re locked in,” he said. “They know what they came to school for.”
How to watch the Texas Longhorns vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
7 p.m., Sept. 3, DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium
TV: Longhorn Network (Lowell Galindo, Sam Acho, Alex Chappell)
Radio: Longhorn IMG Radio Network (Craig Way, Roger Wallace, Will Matthews)
Radio (Spanish): Longhorn IMG Radio Network (Dr. Rubén Pizarro-Silva, Arturo Mata)