‘There’s a level of frustration’: What Steve Sarkisian said during the Longhorns bye week

Horns Report

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian will have a week to think about its 32-24 loss to Oklahoma State with a bye week on the schedule for Saturday.

The Longhorns will spend most of this week healing up and trying to right the wrongs of Saturday loss before moving ahead with preparation on Baylor. Texas will travel to Waco for an Oct. 30 game against No. 20 Baylor. Kickoff has been announced for 11 a.m.

Sarkisian said Texas will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before a break over the weekend. He says the coaching staff will hit the road for recruiting, starting Thursday.

Here’s what Sarkisian said Monday in his session with the media.

Opening statement

“Obviously, there’s a level of frustration for us all. We all get into this to win. What happened in the ball game with our inability to perform in the fourth quarter….there’s a couple ways to go about it. We can dwell on what went wrong or look at it also from the side of…we played pretty good football against a quality, undefeated top-10 team for two and a half or three quarters. The promising part is we’re plenty capable of competing at a high level. Had leads in the fourth quarter and ultimately didn’t finish those ball games. Now, it’s about our ability to sustain that. That’s where our focus and mindset is.”

How to get over mental hurdles within team after close games?

“I’ve never been a guy that has tried to wait to address issues as they present themselves. Sometimes you don’t know all of the issues and maybe some of them were issues in the past that we don’t deal with now or maybe don’t rear their ugly head until you get further down the road. You get a gift, right? And you open the gift and it’s a box of golf balls. Then you open the box and there’s the sleeve of golf balls and you open the sleeve and it’s not actually the brand of golf ball that you thought you were going to get. Sometimes you have to drill down, peel back the layers to find out what potential issues you have. Nothing that we’ve ever done since I’ve gotten here has been lay blame on what has happened before. None of it’s ever been…we’ll just deal with that later. We’re presented with something here. I feel we’re plenty capable and now it’s about getting our players to understand one step after another. That’s the next play mentality that we’re really trying to instill in our team.”

What are the strategies you’d use to address the issues?

“I do a lot of work in this area. I think this is probably one of the more underappreciated aspect of sport. The mental space of the elite competitors in history…this is really what separated them. In recent history, we’ve tried to dig a little bit deeper in it…develop it. This is a portion of me that I believe in. It’s nothing necessarily new to our team. There’s obviously a shift in focus that we obviously need to improve upon and it can’t just be ho-hum and keeping moving on. We have to do the necessary things to address it and that started in our team meeting. From a psyche standpoint, I feel like that’s in our wheelhouse. We’ve already laid a really good foundation for that…I think it’s a natural progression.”

Is Casey Thompson still your starter?

“Yes.”

The decision to stick with Thompson over Hudson Card

“I think Casey has earned a little bit more of that right to work through some of those struggles. A week before he threw five touchdowns against Oklahoma. He had a six-touchdown game against Texas Tech. He’s played and shown really good football to us. I think he’s earned that opportunity to work his way out of this. We’re still developing Hudson and if that time comes where we need to make a change…we’ll be prepared to do so. We have all the confidence in Casey that he can do that.”

Who do you go to for advice?

“I talk to a couple of different people. You try to look at things from a different perspective. I have my perspective and I try to take a ground level look at things. I really believe and our players believe that I’m in the foxhole with them. I try to see it from a player’s perspective. I also look at it from the 10,000 foot view and what’s that perspective. I try my best to look at it from a lot of different angles. When you start to hear a common theme or some thoughts or maybe a way to address some of it, I try to take those opinions seriously. Then try to formulate a plan of action to address our team moving forward.”

On fan support

“I think we’ve got an unbelievable fan base. The support has been tremendous I recognize when you kickoff at 11 a.m. it’s not easy for everybody. Everybody has other things going on. Longhorn football is very important and carries a lot of weight, but other people have things going on. Eleven a.m. kicks aren’t easy. We see the glimpses of what this thing can look like and what it will look like moving forward. I think we’re very close and I’m excited for what this future holds for us.”

Evaluation on offensive line and switching players out

“That was the plan going in. Tope [Imade] was making his first career start. To think he was just going to go all four quarters, that probably wasn’t fair to him. We wanted to roll Hayden Conner in there with him. Ideally, moving forward, Tope continues to gain that comfort level of playing at right guard and then we’re going to monitor the situation at left tackle.”

Do you want to get Keilan Robinson more snaps?

“We visited about that as an offensive staff…really, after the game and yesterday. It’s a fine line when you have such a quality player in Bijan and what he provides to the team. He’s an electric player, but we’ve seen glimpses as Keilan as a player…even the few snaps he had Saturday.. I would anticipate we would continue to find a way and a role to be involved in what we do moving forward.”

Can the run defense improve during the bye week?

“I think so. The hard part for me. There’s a lot of phases in the game Saturday. I thought we were playing good run defense against a good run offensive team. That’s what they did. We knew that coming in and we were productive stopping the run and limiting them in the explosive plays. Complementary football, that’s what great teams do. They play really well together. Offense, defense and special teams. When we’re backed up inside our own, the idea is we’ve got to get two first downs so we can flip the field and not give them a short field. Our inability to do that showed up Saturday. We can stare at the run defense but ultimately when you go three-and-out four consecutive times…the same big guys have to go out there and stop the run. Holistically, the idea of complementary football is an area that we can improve upon. We didn’t work well together offense, defense and special teams.”

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