What Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said ahead of Arkansas game

Horns Report

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It will be a sellout in Fayetteville, Ark. when Texas faces the Razorbacks Saturday night, University of Arkansas Athletics announced Sunday.

The renewal of the Southwestern Conference rivalry and soon to be Southeastern Conference rivalry will have some juice behind it after both teams took care of their week 1 opponents. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Steve Sarkisian’s debut as Longhorns head coach was business-like with Texas controlling the game against No. 23 Louisiana for a 38-18 win at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Arkansas experienced a tougher go against Rice. The teams were tied at 17 going to the fourth quarter before Arkansas reeled off three unanswered touchdowns for a 38-17 win.

Texas escaped Fayetteville with a win in its last trip to Arkansas in 2004. The last meeting between the Longhorns and Razorbacks was the Texas Bowl beatdown in 2014, when Arkansas crushed Charlie Strong’s team 31-7.

Sarkisian aced his first test at Texas. Now, he’ll have to win on the road in front of a hostile crowd. Here’s what the Longhorns head coach said about the game Monday.

Opening Statement

“To recap the game, now that we had a chance to watch the tape. The beauty of first games is there’s always something to work on. Everything is fixable. We had some critical penalties in this game. Definitely things to clean up on that front. I thought we did a lot of really cool disciplined things in the game. Pleased with week one and some of the operations and the way we played but some need to play better.

On the rivalry with Arkansas

It’s a pretty cool game. Old Southwest Conference foes to meet. We have a great of respect for Arkansas. This football team plays hard, plays physical, they’re tough. Seeing them in their opener…it’s a brand of football that they’re proud of. We’ve got out work cut out for us. We need a good week of work.

How will QB Hudson Card handle first road game?

“Part of it’s Hudson’s personality. I think that’s who he is. I think he’s got an even-keeled demeanor. Next is going on the road and dealing with that opponent and hostile environment. We’re going to do everything we can to put him in the best position to succeed.”

On staying in the moment during a rivalry game

“I am very aware of the rivalry. I love the pomp, pageantry and history of college football. For us, we believe in our routine regardless of the opponent. We should go into the game with a very similar mentality. Very focused on the task at hand. I appreciate the rivalry and all it entails…quite frankly every opponent is a faceless opponent.”

On team’s focus for Louisiana game

“First game, new staff, fans back in the stadium. We recognized a lot of that…we prepped them for adversity. Nobody panicked. I thought the coaching staff showed a lot of poise and we settled in to our style of football. I try not to dwell on the negatives or things that happened in the past. I thought our players were in a good frame of mind. I would’ve liked us to finish a little bit better. We didn’t close the game out on offense when we had the ball. We allowed them to drive back down. I thought our focus and intent was really good.”

Sarkisian’s evaluation of linebackers vs. Louisiana

“If our defensive line is playing right, that should allow for opportunities for our linebackers to make tackles. I thought our defensive line was good. I thought we could be more disruptive. I think DeMarvion had 10 tackles and Luke had eight. A key to the game was tackling well and getting a man on the ground…those guys were able to do that until we settled down. I liked the impact they had on the game but we’re going to need other guys to do that too.”

On performance of offensive line

“I thought we were pretty good. Two of the sacks…one was from the tight end…they delay blitzed the tight end…another we just got beat at the tight end. All in all, I thought we played pretty good up front. We definitely could play better. You definitely don’t want to lay expectations on the guys because I know we can play better. We’re going to have to be on our game.”

His memories from 9/11

“I was working at USC at that time. I was waiting to get picked up by Norm Chow. The unfortunate side for me. My cousin was in one of the towers and ended up not making it out. It’s definitely a big moment in our history and one we need to recognize.”

On his team’s ability to extend drives on third down

“Historically, for me, when you believe in running the ball and pushing the ball down the field and taking shots. Being 10-of-15 in that game was a great number for us. Hudson has the ability to be slippery in the pocket and Jordan Whittington had three or four conversions for us there.”

Casey Thompson’s performance and breakdown of QB responsibility

“He played well. I think it was two minutes to go in the third quarter. He operated really well. The key for him is…the same in-game live reps in our system. That’s a real luxury. You’ve got to make sure your backup is prepared to play in those key moments.”

What did LB Luke Brockermeyer do well?

“Awesome story, first of all. The legacy of his dad here and him walking on. Everything he’s done here with us. He’s earned. He’s earned a lot of respect of his teammates. They’ll tell you the same thing. He’s a hard-nosed kid, he’s smart. He recognized and diagnoses things so he communicates well with other guys on the field. I couldn’t be more happy for the guy to have the opportunity and the way he’s playing for us.”

On the team’s understanding of Sarkisian’s offense

“When we’re working as a staff and we’re trying to put a game plan together, there’s a reason we install our offense the way that we do. We teach concepts so that in-game if we see something…the guys are pretty well-equipped to just go run it. There’s a fair amount of times in a game that we’ve got to make adjustments. In the game of football, I think there are a lot of adjustments. I really try to assess the game…get a feel for the game. The hot hand on our team…the weak link on the other side. Those things pop up during ballgames.”

Handling the road environment at Arkansas

“It’s always about us. I’m going to tell these guys before they go out…to make sure they enjoy the experience. You have to appreciate the arena that you’re in. This is a great opportunity for our guys. You have to relish that role but quickly we have to flip right back into what we need to do to perform because it’s a lot easier to play when we perform but we’ll definitely make sure we enjoy the experience of it all.”

Texas’ ability to convert in the red zone

“That’s another huge component for us in the red area. We don’t love settling for field goals in the red area. Conversely on defense, getting a stop in the red area, that’s a big deal. It’s tactical. The approach is definitely tactical.”

Evaluation of Texas’ run protection against Arkansas

“We were OK. I thought we definitely could be better. I thought there was a little hesitation early in the game. I thought it got better as the game went on. We missed three deep ball shots in the game. Those are the ones that we’re going to take those shots…and open up the run. That’s not new to me or foreign to me. I think our defense only played 24 or 26 snaps in the first half…it’s kind of like a heavyweight fight, working the body.”

On Sarkisian’s fourth quarter strategy

“You can’t ever lose respect for your opponent. The ultimate goal is to win. I don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal. I also don’t lose sight of having respect and realizing how dangerous our opponent can be. Saturday would’ve been a really good example of if you just start counting possessions…you can inevitably end the game halfway through the fourth quarter because you know they can’t come back to make that happen. There’s a fine line…I want them to be aggressive. I want them to know they have their foot on the gas and I’ll be the one to pump the brakes.”

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