AUSTIN (KXAN) — Training camp is over and the Texas Longhorns take the field Saturday night against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, and head coach Steve Sarkisian said the “volume is about to get turned up.”
During his Monday press conference, Sarkisian said he could feel the excitement during practice and meetings that the first game week is here. With somewhat of a soft opening for college football last week, along with the final scrimmage for the Longhorns on Saturday, Sarkisian said Monday’s practices and meetings were “a good start.”
“In coach speak, you’d like to say that every day is the same, but in reality, the players know it, the coaches know it, and you can feel it,” Sarkisian said. “I love college football and everything it represents. We get our opportunity Saturday night at DKR at 7 o’clock. I’m pumped for our fans.”
With a new season comes a new team, and with one of the youngest teams the program has ever had, last season’s disappointing 5-7 record doesn’t mean a thing to Sarkisian.
“I’m not doing to sit around and dwell and browbeat these guys about being 5-7,” he said. “This is a different team. We’ve got a lot of new faces in that room; more than half the guys in that room weren’t here a year ago. The ones that are still here feel crappy already. We keep the focus on the windshield and what’s ahead of us, and if I keep looking back at 5-7, I’m going to run right into a tree at some point.”
Sarkisian stressed that the coaching staff knows each other better and the players have done more things together outside of practice, including community service in the offseason to have “a real sense of gratitude,” and he thinks all of that will pay off to help team chemistry.
“We did a lot of work in our community, and in today’s world, it’s about what me and what can I get now, and sometimes you need to give back and be grateful for what you have,” Sarkisian said. “And I thought that was really effective.”
How this year’s Longhorns team will respond to adversity will dictate how the season will ultimately go, Sarkisian said. Last season, they didn’t respond well to those moments and many of the errors made in the wake of them were rooted in a lack of confidence.
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“We’re playing with a lot more confidence now, but then again, we haven’t faced the adversity yet,” Sarkisian said. “Through it all, we’re going to get faced with a bunch of tight moments. This isn’t like, you know, you ho-hum your way through four quarters of football. We’re going to get put in difficult situations and the ball isn’t always going to bounce our way. How we respond is the key to the drill.”
Looking at the Week 1 opponent: Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
Expect plenty of Longhorns to see the field against the Warhawks, who finished 4-8 last year and 2-6 in the Sun Belt Conference.
Sarkisian said this week is “an important week from a competition standpoint,” because of the way he wants to cycle players in and out of the game in all three phases.
“It’s early in the season and it’s going to be warm, and we have to make sure our 2-deep is solid,” he said. “The competition has got to be there, and the reality is multiple guys are going to play in this ballgame, and they’re going to be needed.”
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.
“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.”