Sarkisian: Hudson Card gives Texas best chance for success (but tune back in next week)
Highlights from Texas coach Steve Sarkisian's first game-week press conference today, in advance of Saturday's season opener against Louisiana:
Card is the quarterback
As was reported over the weekend, redshirt freshman Hudson Card was announced as the starter for Satuday's season opener. Junior Casey Thompson will play. And then the Horns will look at what both did in the game.
"Hudson's a very talented young man, he's got a great work ethic and he really tries to operate the way we want to operate in," Sarkisian said. "Just as I told Hudson and Casey, it's really not a knock on Casey. ... It was a tough call, but I think in general, you try to make the best decision for the program at that time.
"Again, Casey's going to play in this game. We'll reevaluate after one game. Neither guy's ever started a game in their career, so we'll look at it after one week."
Sarkisian isn't too dynamic up there on the podium. But that's OK. As long as what he's saying up there is honest and insightful, a truthful quote is better than a great headline.
Example: Sark, who has plenty of experience molding, coaching and calling plays for successful quarterbacks, explained the thinking behind his decision.
"The quarterback position is the most important position in sports — I always say that and I believe that. But also, it's one position of 22 starters on our team on offense and defense," he said. "Everybody has a role in our organization, and ultimately on game day, you have a responsibility to do your job, and the quarterback is no different. And what we ask of him to do ultimately is going to be things that we believe are putting him in the best position to have success, whoever that guy is on the field, and then they've got a responsibility to do their job. And generally speaking, the one that does his job the most consistently gives us the best chance to have success. I think both guys understand that."
Sounds reasonable enough.
But also, it sounds like this decision may be discussed again. And again. Our own Kirk Bohls asked whether this announcement means that Card is the starter for Game 1, or if he's the starter for the season, and whether this is going to be an ongoing battle.
"He'll be starting against Louisiana," Sark answered, looking right at him.
Bohls: "That's it?"
Sarkisian: "That's it."
He said a few minutes later: "For us to win, and I've said this all along, we're gonna need both quarterbacks as this season goes on. To think you just play one until something happens to that one guy, and now you gotta put the other guy in — I think putting a guy in and giving him some real-life reps is going to be good, and I don't feel like we're taking a step back offensively. Both of these two are a little bit different in what they do well, and we've just got to be sure we call it accordingly to whichever guy is on the field."
About Saturday's game
Injury updates: Sophomore TE Brayden Liebrock will have season-ending shoulder surgery. Freshman WR Jaden Alexis will have season-ending knee surgery. And WR Troy Omeire won't play. Sarkisian didn't specify the redshirt freshman's injury.
Saturday's game kicks off at 6 p.m. at Arkansas' Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. It'll be on ESPN.
opener kicks off at 3:30 at Royal-Memorial Stadium. It'll be on Fox. The Horns are 8-point favorites.
Top players for the Horns: QB Hudson Card (14-21-224, 2/0); RB Bijan Robinson (20-103-1); WR Jordan Whittington (7-113-1); LB DeMarvion Overshown (13 tackles); LB Luke Brockermeyer (10 tackles, 1.5 TFL)
Top players for the Razorbacks: QB KJ Jefferson (12-21-128, 1/1); RB Trelon Smith (22-102-1); WR Tyson Morris (3-42-1); LB Bumper Pool (14 tackles, 1.5 TFL); DB Jalen Catalon (11 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 interception)
Sarkisian was asked what he felt was the big key for Saturday. It wasn't how well Card plays. Or winning the turnover battle.
"The game of football, at least the way we play and the way Louisiana plays, starts up front," he said. "I think both programs believe in running the football, so the line of scrimmage is going to be critical Saturday. On both sides: our ability to control the line of scrimmage on offense and our ability to try to control the line of scrimmage on defense is going to be a key component to this game as we work our way through first, second, third and then into the fourth quarter.
"There's going to be your highlight plays — hopefully more in our favor than not— but at the end of the day, I think that's where this game will shake out."
Last year, Texas ranked 37th in the country in rushing offense. Louisiana was 88th in stopping the run. The Ragin' Cajuns were 21st running the ball; Texas was 38th against the run.
Last year's leading rusher for Louisiana, Elijah Mitchell, was drafted in the sixth round by the 49ers.
Sark started off his presser by acknowledging the state of Louisiana as it deals with Hurricane Ida. The Horns have five Louisianans on the roster: WR Casey Cain (New Orleans), DE Barryn Sorrell (New Orleans), DL Myron Warren (Many), DB Darion Dunn (Oakdale) and OL Christian Rizzi (Metairie).
"Making sure that everybody's safe, and making sure our players are in a good head space," Sarkisian said. "We've got some people (players' family) migrating to the Houston area. So, just awareness. We want our players to know we're there for them, whether it's physical health or mental health."