AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns are back at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium this week after two rough weeks on the road.
The Longhorns lost back-to-back road games at Baylor and Iowa State, and are on a four-game losing streak. The team is looking to its game against Kansas as the cure.
Texas will host the Jayhawks Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be shown on ESPNU. This is the first game between the two teams since 2019. Last season’s game was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.
In 2019, Texas narrowly escaped its second loss to the lowly Jayhawks in four seasons. Cameron Dicker kicked the game-winning field goal in the final seconds for a 50-48 win in Austin.
Steve Sarkisian and Texas are hoping this year’s game isn’t quite that dramatic. The Longhorns are favored to beat Kansas by 30 points, according to oddsmakers.
Sarkisian met with the media Monday and provided some injury and personnel updates. Longhorns receiver Joshua Moore plans to enter the transfer portal and is no longer with the team.
Texas running back Bijan Robinson left Saturday’s game with a neck strain. He is considered day-to-day. Here’s what Sarkisian said ahead of UT’s game against Kansas.
“I kind of want to reiterate what I said after the game. I thought first half defense did a really good job. Really played well the whole half. It was unfortunate we missed a couple of opportunities offensively that could’ve changed the complexion of the game. Worthy on the post route in the second quarter and then obviously not taking advantage of the blocked punt. Inevitably, you get in the locker room up 7-3…you feel good about where you’re at. The reality of the whole situation is…we didn’t play to the quality of the second half that we had been making incremental progress on. In the second half, we lost that momentum and we lost that progress we had been making. Missed tackles began to rear their head again. It’s a dangerous strategy to play with hope. Hope doesn’t work. You can’t hope the guy next to you does his job. You have to have belief in the scheme and you get success through belief and ultimately that’s how you gain confidence. We don’t have any time to be down on our luck or feel sorry for ourselves. We have to be demanding of what is expected, not demeaning of players…to ultimately make progress.”
What are you seeing from player development and team leadership?
“When you really break down individual players, you see the growth. Some guys may be ahead or making bigger strides than others. I look at Brenden Schooler…came out and was playing really well, hit a lull and is now his game is coming back. Alfred Collins was down on the depth chart at the beginning of the year and now he’s starting for us. I think we’re seeing that at a lot of different spots. We never want to settle for a ceiling. I think we’re seeing that.”
“We have a lot of players trying to do the necessary things for themselves for what is needed of the team. Ultimately, when teams get to that point where they are really good teams. Not only in their play but in their culture…players start to hold each other accountable for what is acceptable and what is not. I think players are recognizing who is doing things the right way and who may be cutting some corners. When they step in and start holding each other accountable, that’s when we’ve got something special. I think we’re getting closer to that we’re just not exactly where we need to be.”
“We’ve got DeMarvion [Overshown], Bijan [Robinson], Alfred [Collins]…I may be leaving a couple of guys out. We were kind of nicked up there Saturday night. None of them are significant, which is positive. I think every guy is day-to-day. We made some good progress with rehab this morning. We’ll just have to work our way through the week to see where we’re at.”
On Bijan Robinson’s fumbles
“The first one was tough. Bijan is the ultimate competitor, he’s fighting for extra yards. He refused to go down. He had it wrapped tight but ultimately when they’ve got 10 guys around you. Sometimes it can get hard if they get a good grip and get it out. We’re just trying to teach him the effort and competitiveness is there…sometimes you have to cut your losses and get down at that point. It wasn’t about technique or effort. The second one…same idea…he had good pad level, the ball looked high and tight. Sometimes that happens. Can’t afford the two turnovers so the emphasis is still going to be there. We’re going to have a game where we don’t turn the ball over and that’s going to be one of the better days in the program since I’ve been here.”
Who’s the starting quarterback for the Kansas game?
“We’ll evaluate this week. Casey has been starting the past six or seven games. We made the move in game. There’s plenty of things to evaluate. We’ll have to look at Casey’s thumb and we’ll see how it goes throughout the week. I’ll have an answer for you guys Thursday of what we’re going to do there.”
Evaluation of the quarterback position
“Played some pretty good defenses over the last few weeks. We haven’t been efficient enough at getting the completions that we don’t have to work as hard for. Part of that is on the quarterback, part of that is on the receivers and part of it is on me. It’s easy to point to the guy that throws it and we have plenty of work to do there. I have a responsibility to get to that point. It’s a point of emphasis. The passing game if you want to be a complementary team…we’re got to find the consistency in the passing game and it will be a point of emphasis for us this week.”
How can you address the second half issues?
“I’m as frustrated as anybody. I know what we’re capable of. If we didn’t play really well in the first half…then, I’d be like ‘man, we’ve got to fix a lot.” For whatever reason…we go from really good belief in the first half with really good confidence…that belief can’t shift to hope. We’re shifting some to hope. We can’t think that way. We have to think very confidently. Ultimately, schematically for me, we have to remain aggressive. We have to remain attack-oriented. I assess a lot in our program. This is another aspect of how can I help this situation. For me, we have to remain aggressive. We have to call the things that ultimately put our players in position to have success. We can’t do it in a passive manner. We have to believe in them.”
How much of a challenge is to get players to buy-in after struggles?
“Getting the players to hear the same message consistently is to hold our players accountable so they can be the best player they can be, the best teammate they can be and best person they can be. I don’t want our players to misconstrue that us being demanding or having constructive criticism as a personal attack. We’re trying to do what we can to put them in position to have success. Accountability is great when you have it from coach to player, player to coach, player to player and coach to coach. What we’re really trying to work on in our locker room is player-to-player and that’s when the leadership is really going to step up.”
Any different approach to practice this week?
“We obviously came out of that game Saturday a little nicked up. Today was more about teaching really well…more like a walk-through and making sure we’re assignment sound against a Kansas team that’s more option based.
What is Joshua Moore’s status on the team?
The plan for Josh [Moore] is to go into the portal and that’s his option or his opportunity to do that. That’s what college football provides and we wish him the best of luck.”
How important is it to get to a bowl game?
“I think my job is to inspire, coach and develop great men. My job is to inspire the young men in our locker room to be the best of their ability and to be the best they can be. To finish this season off the way we want to, to me, that is inspiring to them when they can have some success. That’s how they’ll continue to gain confidence and continue to grow. Nobody is more upset than we are. I can’t worry about the perception of what it looks like. I have to worry about the men…that they feel inspired.”
Who’s the player that can get after his teammates the right way?
“The guy who is probably the most that way is Roschon Johnson and I really appreciate that about him. Whe you’re not the frontline starter, people would assume that maybe I’m not the one to do that. You see it in his play. He plays extremely hard. He has an incredible effect on the game on special teams.”
What’s the message to the fanbase?
“From a fanbase perspective, if you want to buy a classic car, it’s easy to put a new paint job on it and make it look like it’s restored and it looks great. We’re under the hood…we’re fixing the engine, we’re working on the interior…we’re working on a lot of things that we think need to get worked on whether it’s schematically and culturally. Ultimately, the car is going to look shiny and good. We have to trust the process that we’re going through. Nobody likes where we’re at. I get it. I wish we were undefeated too. That’s the progress that we’re in. I do think there’s incremental progress that’s occurring.”
How do you get the team refocused for Kansas?
“Turn on the Kansas-OU game, it doesn’t take very long. They probably should’ve won that football game. They played extremely well. Clearly, they were up for that game. They played great defense in the first half. Had an opportunity to win the game late. It didn’t take long. Once you turn that tape on, they get it and we’ve got to play Saturday.”
How much talent is on this roster?
“I don’t know to put an exact figure on it. I think we’re good enough. Clearly, we haven’t got the result that we’re looking for. To your point, it is on us [the coaches]. Our job is to motivate, our job is to put players in position to perform. When that doesn’t happen, we have to look ourselves in the mirror too. That starts with me and that goes for every coach on the staff of what we can do to get the most of the players to perform to the best of their ability.”