What Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said about Red River Showdown against Oklahoma

Horns Report

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns are back in the Associated Press poll right in time for the annual showdown in the Cotton Bowl with the Oklahoma Sooners. No. 21 Texas will face No. 6 Oklahoma Saturday at 11 a.m. with ESPN’s College GameDay in attendance.

The Longhorns have lost three straight to the Sooners and five out of the last six in the rivalry. Texas’ last win came in 2018 when Longhorns kicker hit a 40-yard field goal as time expired for a a 48-45 win.

Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson was named the Big 12’s offensive player of the week for the second time this season after his 216-yard rushing performance against TCU. Texas kicker Cameron Dicker was named Big 12 co-special teams player of the week.

This will be Steve Sarkisian’s introduction to the Red River Showdown. Though the coach is no stranger to spotlight college football games after stops at Alabama. Here’s what the Longhorns head coach said Monday about the Sooners.

Opening statement

“A lot of the things that we talked about postgame held true when we looked at the tape. We played at times really good complimentary football where when one side was struggling, the other was able to pick it up. Clearly, we got some really good field position in the game and we just didn’t capitalize. I thought it was something that was unfortunate because we had done so well capitalizing in the red zone. That part was disappointing. We’ve got to clean that aspect up. In the passing game, just a little out of sync. We’ve got to keep taking our shots. We’ve got plenty to work on in all three phases…we’re going to need to. Clearly, we’re facing a really good opponent in Oklahoma. I’m excited for our fans. We’ve got out work to do. We need a good week of preparation to put our best foot forward Saturday at 11 a.m.”

Resting Bijan Robinson during practice after 35 carries Saturday

“We’ll monitor it. Between myself, Coach Drayton and Coach Flood, we’ve got a lot of experience dealing with running backs. We’ll definitely monitor it. Bijan feels great if you ask him. He’s obviously in really good physical condition. That was something we challenged him…coming out of spring ball. There was a level of fatigue there late in the fourth quarter but you can always dig deeper. That’s an individual component to look at…about how powerful our mind is…to be able to overcome.”

Casey Thompson’s mental approach with connection to OU

“It speaks volumes to his own personality. He chose to go where he thought was best for him. I think with recruiting there’s a lot of narratives. I should go where you want to go because inevitably adversity is going to strike. For Casey, he chose to come to the University of Texas. He wanted to be a Longhorn. Through the adversity, through being a backup…he was able to get through it because he wanted to be here. The distractions…there not just for Casey, they’re going to be for everybody. We’re back in the top 25, Bijan is a Heisman contender now, it’s the biggest game of the year, family tickets…there’s all the stuff going on. We’ve got to quiet the noise. We’re very diligent in our approach to that. We started that this morning. It’s one of the bigger challenges this week to ensure that we play well Saturday.”

Is Sarkisian considering redshirt for Hudson Card? Card didn’t hold on kicks after previously doing so

“Only reason is that Dicker felt more comfortable. Nothing in my mind is that we are redshirting Hudson Card. Our mind is we’re continually preparing him to play. I expect him to play this year. That was not the reason he didn’t hold so I appreciate the question.”

Takeaways from OU’s defense

“They’ve got a good scheme. [Defensive coordinator Alex] Grinch does a great job. They’ve built this roster to what fits his defense which is predicated on speed. They’re very active up front. They’ve recruited players that cover well, they’re sticky. It’s been an impressive transformation from when he first came on board so we’re got our work cut out for us.”

Admiration for OU coach Lincoln Riley

“A couple things he’s done a really good job of…he does a good job of fitting his scheme to the players he has, most notably the quarterback. I think that’s something that a lot of guys as play callers struggle with because it’s about their scheme. He does a nice job of getting the advantage throws. I think they believe in running the football. Everything is very complimentary. He sets up everything up well.”

Sarkisian’s excitement for Texas-OU rivalry

“I’m fired up for the game. I love the pomp and pageantry of college football. I love the history and the nostalgia. To think this is the 117th game…that’s a crazy number. I’m looking forward to…we put in so much work during the week so we can enjoy the experience on gameday. I’m looking forward to it…it’s a great atmosphere, a great game. At the end of the day, the peripheral puts measuring sticks on us on where we are. For us, our process is our process. We have to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward…are we making incremental gains to get better. For me, the positive…I really believe we’re making incremental progress in a lot of ways. There’s a lot that goes into it. When you’re playing the team over recent history that has won the conference, here’s an opportunity to basically see where are we at this point. We’re going to find out. We’re going to see.”

Update on Longhorns injuries

“Josh Thompson is back. We’re good to go on that front. Denzel Okafor is going to have surgery early next week which will be season-ending unfortunately. I really liked where he was at from a leadership standpoint.”

Solutions for deep passing game

“The hard part is…I wish it could just be one thing. A lot of times it feels like it’s just finger tips, right? I just reminded a couple of the guys today…Jerry West once said that he was a lifetime 50% shooter and if he missed his first 10 shots in the first half of game…look out because he’s probably going to make the next 10. We’re not going to back off of our style of play. We believe in it. We’re a diving catch here…a throw there of totally changing the perception of what we’re doing but we need that aspect of the game. The more things we can do really well, the harder we are to defend.”

Issues in red zone against TCU

“I didn’t love our execution. I was honest with the players about it. All the way down to the first drive…we have a third-and-1. We get a false start, we go to third and 6. We don’t block a protection correctly…that was a microcosm of things we hadn’t been doing early in the season. We had avoided negative plays in the red area. It was about execution.”

Evaluation of OU quarterback Spencer Rattler

“I think he’s a natural passer. He’s got really good delivery, athletic, competitive. They are a very talented, skilled group on offense. We’ve got to do a good job containing him.”

Evaluation of cornerback Darion Dunn

“Darion played well. He played physical. It’s been a really neat process to watch him transform. Before anything with Josh had come up, our plan was to rotate Darion in. That’s a positive for us moving forward.”

How to combat OU’s rushing defense

“There’s a lot of guys that play. They are extremely athletic. There’s a lot of movement up front. There’s a lot of penetration up front. The key for us…our effectiveness on first down is going to be big for us Saturday.”

How does Sarkisian handle preparation ahead of a big game

“I learned a lot during my time with coach Saban. There’s a lot of big games there. They’re everybody’s biggest game…a lot like here. Trusting the routine is something that he’s a master at. They don’t change. You wouldn’t know who they’re playing Saturday by the approach. That’s obviously something we are striving for…to not get caught up in the outside noise. The distractions…try to stay focused on the task at hand. That’s not a discount to the game…but our approach needs to be on the ball game.”

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