AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns have to rebound quickly from a devastating Saturday at the Red River Showdown. The Longhorns couldn’t hold off Caleb Williams and the OU offense in the second half as the Sooners rallied from a 38-20 halftime deficit for a 55-48 win.
As Steve Sarkisian said Monday, nobody is feeling sorry for the Longhorns after Oklahoma sprung the largest comeback in Red River Showdown history. No. 12 Oklahoma State is fresh off a bye week and head coach Mike Gundy is aiming at another win in Austin.
Oklahoma State has won five of the last six games played in Austin against the Longhorns. Texas snapped a five-game home losing streak to the Cowboys with a 36-30 win in 2019.
The Longhorns will kick off against the Cowboys at 11 a.m. at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Here’s what Sarkisian said Monday in his 30 minutes with the media.
“I really loved the way we played the first half of the game. I think that lends itself to our preparation. Offensively, the execution…we were finally able to break the dam and hit some deep balls, which had been talking about.. Defensively…creating a couple turnovers in the first half, pressuring the quarterback and obviously, getting the blocked punt on special teams. In the second half of the game…the momentum obviously swung. We did some things uncharacteristic to us…same calls, same looks that we weren’t able to execute. Unfortunately, their quarterback came in the game and we didn’t apply the same pressure. It wasn’t so much the on-schedule plays…it was the off-schedule [plays], out of the pocket, taking the shots down the field. In the second half of the game, it was too many second-and-long and third-and-long…that’s where the game got out of whack. We executed at a high level really the last two drives.”
On fixing the Longhorns run defense
“I think it comes back to our fundamentals and our techniques. I felt like we let the things that we practiced doing and the things we did in the first half…get away from us in the second half. That’s happened now two weeks. When the game starts to get hard and there’s momentum swings, our ability to trust our fundamentals and techniques and execute the call. It’s not about trying to make a play, which inevitable we got out of our gaps. It’s about doing your job and that will be good enough and we’ve proven that to be good enough.”
Injury update on DL Jacoby Jones and WR Jordan Whittington
“Jacoby Jones and Jordan Whittington will both be having surgery. Jacoby on his foot, Jordan on his clavicle. Not exactly sure on the timetable yet. I will keep you guys up to date”
On tackling issues
“We definitely missed too many tackles…at all three levels. We practice tackling every week. We’re a physical program. We work on it. Tackling is not about the want-to. Our guys want to get them on the ground. It’s getting back to the proper fundamentals and techniques. I think we’ve improved in that area but we’ve got to be able to do it there at the critical moments.”
Who can step up in Jones and Whittington’s absence?
“The guy who has probably made some of the best progress for us defensively has been Alfred Collins. He’s really played well the last two weeks so I think this is a great opportunity for him to get more playing time on that front. Obviously, Ovie [Oghoufo] has played really well. He with the combination of Ray [Thornton]. It was great to see Ben Davis…he gets in and forces the fumble. From Jordan’s perspective, Marcus Washington has been playing a fair amount of football for us, so Marcus will step in. Kelvontay Dixon…an opportunity for him to step up. Also, what can we do from a personnel standpoint to take some of the stress off those guys…whether it’s multiple tight ends or multiple running backs whatever that looks like…to remain creative but also still run our schemes at a high level.”
On challenges of overcoming emotional letdown after OU loss
“I kind of like these challenges. This is when you learn a lot about ourselves. I talked about our mettle would be tested this week. I think the best way to deal with these things is to address them head on. Be honest, be up front on what they need to fix. I commended the guys for the way they came out and played the first half. I thought they played an excellent first half of football. We’re capable. Now, it’s about our ability to sustain. We know what our goals are, we know what we want to accomplish this fall. We know to do that we need to play well this Saturday and that’s where our focus is.”
Sarkisian on getting team to refocus/ the spirit at practice Monday
“There’s not a lot of time in our sport…for the ‘poor me’ or ‘woe is me’. Nobody feels sorry for us. Whether it is outside of here, nobody is feeling sorry for us for losing that game. We don’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for ourselves. It hurt. When you invest in something and you don’t get the outcome you’re looking for…that’s painful. That’s the agony of sport. That’s why we do what we do. There’s some tremendous highs and there was tremendous lows that we have to endure. The greatest competitors in the world have that…ability. They learn from that loss.”
Message to team after loss and failing to execute late
“Momentum in sport is a fascinating thing. What is momentum actually and why it goes the way that it goes? The positive effects for the team that has the momentum and the challenge for the team that doesn’t have the momentum is how you get back to being fundamentally sound. It’s going to be a progression of plays that come together that ultimately swing the momentum back in your favor. I think we had a couple of guys trying to change the momentum on their own rather than just doing their job really well and getting momentum back in our favor. It’s a big teachable moment for us.”
On ability to win fourth quarter momentum against Oklahoma State
“Our guys really…if there is a takeaway from last week’s game. I think they felt that was their best week of preparation, so they see the value in preparation. This week of preparation is going to be big for us. We’re going to need quality play for four quarters. We can’t hang around. We’ve got to come out and play well from the start and we need to sustain that for four quarters.”
How far is Texas from being a great team?
“I don’t know exactly how far we are from a metric standpoint. What I do know is that was a top five team in the country and I think with two minutes to go in the third quarter we were ahead 41-23 so, if that’s the metric, maybe we’re not as far as we think. It’s not really about that, it’s about how do we continue to get better and fix the issues that we have.”
Does Sarkisian discuss goals of reaching Big 12 Championship?
“I think it’s two-fold. I think we have to recognize what our goals are. Obviously, we all want to win a Big 12 Championship. I said it Saturday we would love an opportunity to play Oklahoma again but none of that can occur if we don’t take care of business Saturday. I’ve never been one to not be transparent with our players. Realize that from Saturday at three o’clock…they’re reading everything you guys write. They’re on Twitter, they’re on Instagram. They’re talking to Uncle Joe. They’re getting a lot of outside influences…so we did address the goal. Yes, that goal is still very attainable, but that cannot occur if we don’t put all of our attention and focus into this ballgame with Oklahoma State Saturday.”
On the offensive line’s penalty problems
“I’ve been talking about this mental intensity and mental focus for four quarters. We got a little bit of it there on the offensive line. We had some uncharacteristic snap infractions. I know we’ve had a couple calls not go our way…that was a little out of character for us. Whatever it was, that was unacceptable.”
On containing Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders in the pocket
“It’s difficult. I think that’s why our ability to maintain the pocket…our rush lanes definitely have to improve so we can keep those types of players in the pocket so we can minimize those plays.”