AUSTIN (KXAN) — While he still passed for more than 300 yards, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers wasn’t nearly as efficient and effective against Oklahoma State two weeks ago as he’d been in past performances. That’s OK, Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday.
Sarkisian said with a bye week in between games, his young quarterback had plenty of time to process the game and what he needs to work on moving forward. The No. 24 Longhorns and No. 13 Wildcats kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday from Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas.
MORE THAN THE SCORE: Stay up to date on sports stories like these, and sign up for our More than the Score sports newsletter at kxan.com/newsletters
“He knows that me, the coaching staff and the team are in the foxhole with him,” Sarkisian said. “We’ll go to battle with him every day, and that’s the approach he has. Not every Saturday is going to be a perfect sunny day, there’s going to be days where you’re not at your best, and I thought he did that.”
Ewers completed just 38% of his passes, 19-for-49, against the Cowboys in the 41-34 loss Oct. 22. He had some big plays in there, ending with 319 yards, but also had three interceptions. If anybody knows how to coach a young quarterback after a subpar performance and help rebuild confidence, it’s Sarkisian. He’s been there before, and he didn’t have another week to process the bad performance before he went out and set an NCAA record the following game for BYU in 1995.
Against rival Utah, Sarkisian was so bad that his mom left the stadium because fans were booing him so much, he said Thursday. He threw four interceptions at home, three in the first half, as the Utes thumped Sarkisian and the Cougars 34-17 in November 1995. The next week against Fresno State, Sarkisian completed 31 of 34 passes, a 91.2% completion rate that was a national record at the time, for 399 yards and three touchdowns. He led BYU to a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship with a 45-28 win.
“One game should never define us,” he said. “You got to get back to work, you got to get back on the horse and start riding again.”
We’ll see if the Longhorns are more disciplined this time around, as well. A big part of letting the lead against the Cowboys slip away were penalties — a lot of them. Texas was flagged 14 times for 119 yards and a lot of the penalties turned manageable conversion situations into trouble. Sarkisian said fixing that is on the coaching staff and how the team responds in practice.
“We’ve practiced the way you need to practice in November,” Sarkisian said. “Monday and Tuesday were extremely physical and we fine-tuned things yesterday and today. Obviously, we’re going into a great environment against a very good football team, and it will take really good focus and mental intensity and everyone playing as one to get a victory.”
Another conference loss would essentially end any hopes of making it to the Big 12 championship game in December, but if the Longhorns hit their stride in the last month of the regular season, they’ve got a shot at it. However, that’s for people outside of the program to ponder. For Sarkisian, he needs his guys to focus one week at a time.
“If there’s an elephant in the room, I try to address it,” Sarkisian said. “We all know what our goal is. We all know where we want to be Dec. 3, but to get there, we have to take care of this one first. There’s an old adage in football that goes what you do in November is what they remember … but we can’t worry about games two, three and four until we take care of game one.”