AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Steve Sarkisian era of Texas Longhorns football starts with a true test against No. 23 Louisiana Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will be full at 100,000 capacity for the first time since the 2019 season. Texas will also officially unveil its new south end zone project that fully encloses the stadium.
When Texas starts on offense, redshirt freshman Hudson Card will lead the team as the quarterback. Sarkisian officially announced Card is the starter, but clarified he is the starter specifically for Saturday’s game. Sarkisian said Casey Thompson is expected to play against Louisiana.
Sarkisian met with the media Monday. Here’s what he said about the season opener against Louisiana.
Jaden Alexis (WR) – season-ending knee surgery
Brayden Liebrock (TE) – season-ending shoulder surgery
Troy Omeire (WR) – will miss Saturday’s game
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in the state of Louisiana. As we go into this ballgame against Louisiana, we’re very aware we’re facing an experience football team. Top 25 team returning a bulk of their starters, a bulk of their roster. We know what this team is capable of. We know they’re well-coached. Good football team, returning 10 of 11 starters on offense and defense. They have an experienced quarterback in Levi Wallace. He has the ability with his athleticism to extend plays. It’s a big factor. We have our work cut out for us. Having the mock game scenario — I thought was helpful. We’re going to need a really good week of work. I like the space we’re in right now, but we’re going to need some really good work days to get ready for the opponent.”
Decision on starting quarterback
“Hudson Card is going to start Saturday against Louisiana. Casey will play in the game. We’ll continue to evaluate from there but that’s the direction we’re going this weekend.”
Why is Card the starter?
“Hudson is a very talented young man. He’s got great work ethic. It’s really not a knock on Casey. Both guys really started to perform well after that first scrimmage. It was a tough call but I think, in general, you try to make the best decision for the program at that time. Casey is going to play in the game. The good part for both of our guys is that we’re improving on offense. Incorporating the tight ends has been helpful. The receiver picture is starting to clear itself up and what we have at running back. All in all, I think the offense is starting to elevate its play and it’s helping the quarterbacks.”
On responsibility of leading offense
“I tried to impress this upon our team… the quarterback, it is the most important position in sports. Ultimately come game day, you have a responsibility to do your job. Generally speaking, the one that does their job gives us the best chance to have success. It’s not trying to win the job on one play. We’re not trying to have the starting quarterback that wows the crowd. The biggest component is taking care of the football. Those are the factors and not the outside noise.”
Keys to being successful in his team
“I think the extraordinary plays happen when they present themselves. I think when you try to be extraordinary that’s when the bad plays happen. Guys get themselves in trouble… when they force balls or they have bad ball security in the pocket. That’s what we have to eliminate. That’s what we focus on Saturday.”
On Hurricane Ida and players impact
“We’ve tried to check in on everybody. We’ve got players with immediate family or roots in Louisiana. Making sure that everybody is safe and our players are in a good headspace. We’ve got people migrating to the Houston area. We want to make sure that we’re there for them.”
How much has Sarkisian learned about his team?
“We’re immersed into the Louisiana game plan of what we’re doing. I don’t think learning about our team, or players and motivating ever goes away. We’re constantly trying to maximize their abilities. We’re constantly trying to point out things that can improve their game. The dedication to our players really never leaves us.”
When will Thompson play Saturday?
“I don’t know yet. I don’t know when Casey is going to play. When and how much — I’m not certain. I think there has to be a feel for the game. Hudson has earned the right to be the starter, but somewhere in this game Casey is going to get his opportunities as well.”
Who are the leaders on the team?
“Derek Kerstetter is an obvious guy up front. He’s been through the fire, he’s been through the battles. I think he knows what it looks like. He’s been a steady leader for us really since day one even when he wasn’t able to perform. Roschon Johnson is a natural leader. He’s got something about him that is just infectious. Cade Brewer is a tremendous leader. I think Bijan going into his sophomore year. I like the presence of both quarterbacks. I’m excited for both guys to face some adversity in game.”
On emotions of starting his Longhorns coaching career
“I’m excited. The bulk of my excitement is for our players. Just seeing them move into the south end zone. Seeing them have their own facility back. The blood, the sweat, the tears. The closed door meetings. Now they get the opportunity to go out and do what they do. You just focus on the task at hand. They have family coming into town too. There’s going to be 100,000 [people] here Saturday. There’s a lot of moving parts coming together Saturday. We’ve got to make sure that we do our part to make sure we’re focused on the task at hand. That’s probably going to be the biggest challenge for everybody Saturday. There’s going to be a lot of emotions. We’ve got to embrace those emotions. That’s what makes college football so great. Football is an emotional game, but we’ve got to keep our emotions in check.”
What are Sarkisian’s keys to Saturday’s game?
“Starts up front. I think both teams believe in running the football. The line of scrimmage is going to pivotal Saturday. We need to control the line of scrimmage on offense and our ability to control the line of scrimmage is going to be a key component of this game. There’s going to be the highlight plays. Hopefully, in our favor more than not.”
On preparing for Louisiana
“I know the opponent we’re playing has our attention. When you turn on the tape, they get your attention. They understand what they’re doing. This is a metric team and there’s not a lot of egregious errors. Hopefully, our players really understand. The second half of our practice is a lot harder and a lot more difficult. Generally, the second half of a game is a lot more tasking than the first half. That approach is going to be critical in the fourth quarter of the game.”
Handling quarterback competition between Card and Thompson
“For us to win, we’re going to need both quarterbacks. I think putting a guy in and getting him some real life reps. I don’t think we’re taking a step back offensively.”
On feeling Longhorn nation
“In the last month or so, I really felt Longhorn nation. Now, all of the sudden, we’ve got students back on campus. Just the energy. I’ve had a chance to speak at some public events. There’s just a vibe and energy. I had to keep reminding myself that we were in the middle of a pandemic. It’s really comforting to know the support and everybody that is here for you and behind you.”