Steve Sarkisian peppered with questions over Texas loss, makes a change at quarterback
The new Texas coach stood up there on the podium on Monday morning, two days removed from an embarrassing loss, and was peppered with questions over who should be starting at quarterback, and about the struggles on the offensive line, and on what the mood and the psyche of his team was like.
And that was Tom Herman, on Sept. 4, 2017 — at his Monday morning press conference following the 51-41 home loss to Maryland.
Today, Steve Sarkisian literally stood in that exact same spot and took pretty much the exact same questions.
Saturday's 40-21 loss at Arkansas has created a ripple of questions and concerns and, just like that 2017 loss to Maryland, a quarterback change.
Casey Thompson will start Saturday's home game against Rice, Sarkisian announced. Hudson Card will play as well, just as Thompson has gotten into the first two games.
And Sark feels good about that decision.
In fact, Sarkisian — remember that his degree was in sociology — reaffirmed his decision and how he was feeling about that decision several times during his half hour up there.
Announcing that Thompson will start: "So I feel good about that. Both guys have been battling, both guys have been competing."
Explaining his decision: "I think Casey's put himself in a good position to do that (command the offense). Obviously different circumstances that what Hudson was dealing with early in the game, but that's OK, I'm OK with that."
On whether watching the film played a factor: "All those things add up to hey, this guy deserves his chance. And I feel good about it."
OK, back to past and present.
• Sept, 4 2017: On a question about the mood of the team, Herman said, "Coming in yesterday, this was a really, really somber place for most of the day. And it should be. I’d be really worried if guys weren’t really sad and upset and hurt, and they were. We came out and we practiced last night and put the Maryland game to rest."
Sept. 13, 2021: On a question about whether Sark saw anger and hurt, he answered, "Our team hurt in that locker room Saturday night. As I've said all along, the great teams hate to lose more than they like to win. That isn't always at the game. That's Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. When you go into the week with that mentality, you're doing everything you need to do because you're so afraid to have that feeling again, of that hurt that you had. ... That's what drives me. I don't want to lose. Hopefully our team takes on that same approach."
• Sept. 4, 2017: On a question of whether there's a little or a lot to be fixed, Herman said, "We’ve got a saying in this program: We ain’t changing. We’re not gonna be too stubborn to not realize when change is necessary, but I don’t think that when you’re selling a vision, selling a culture, selling a way of doing things, the first hiccup is not to panic."
Sept. 13, 2021: On balancing making personnel decisions based on staying the course, Sark answered, "I think one of the keys for us is stay the course. We're a new program, we're a new coaching staff, we're a new scheme. The natural knee-jerk reaction is the sky is falling, we've got to change everything. We've got a system and we've got coaches that have withstood the test of time. We'll rely on that, the players will continue to buy into that, and in the end, we'll reap the benefits of that."
• Sept. 4, 2017: On whether the O-line needs to improve, Herman answered, "We’ve gotta do a better job of establishing the run game. … Only one or two of the sacks were really offensive line breakdowns. I feel certainly not great, but we’ve got a long way to go and the entire teams needs to improve. But to single out those two position groups would be a bit … rash."
Sept. 13, 2021: On how fixable the O-line is — or, as Fox 7's Dennis de la Pena put it, "I think the knee-jerk reaction is 'that's it, that's what we have. How do you see it?"
Sark's answer: "How I see it is: we didn't trust our training. They had played a four-man front the week before against (Louisiana), this week came, they played an odd-man front, a dime defense, and we didn't trust our principles and trust our training and fall back on the things we had been building for eight months, and that's something we have to get fixed. I don't think it was about manpower or physicality or talent. It was doing what you're supposed to do down in and down out. That's a very fixable problem. I'm OK with that. But now we have to fix it."
Sark also said he intends to keep the starting line as is, rather than see what backups Andrej Karic or Hayden Conner could do in there.
The point: A loss is a loss is a loss to Texas fans, and whatever immediate reactions there have been over the loss Saturday night, part of it is is due to the fact that this fan base has been burned before.
Other Sark highlights
On what Card did wrong: Sarkisian brought up Card's decisions in the pocket, or rather, his decisions to leave the pocket, a few times. He used the word "antsy" in response to two different questions, and also mentioned some missed throws downfield that became missed opportunities. "He just got antsy in the pocket and started moving around when he didn't need to move around, and that created timing issues in the passing game that we can't afford," he said. "... He was frustrated because it wasn't working, but part of it was we were moving around too much in the pocket. We've got to clean that up."
On whether he's concerned about Cameron Dicker, who's being asked to handle field goals, extra points, kickoffs and, until Ryan Bujcevski returns, punts. (Dicker missed a field goal in Fayetteville and had a punt blocked deep in UT territory when he bobbled the snap): "At first I was (concerned), but then you think about it. The guy missed a 52-yard field goal the other night. In the NFL, if you make that kick you get a standing ovation. So I think there's lofty expectations for Cameron this year. He's performed at a high level, he's been punting like crazy, his kickoffs have been tremendous. Missed a couple of field goals. I think he'd be the first guy to tell you 'I can't believe I dropped the snap.' I don't think that had anything to do with fatigue or his approach to the game. It was a human error. Those things happen. It wasn't that he blocked a wrong person. He dropped the ball. ... That's the way it goes. That's a human error. ... His approach and what he's done for us, I feel great about where he's at. And we're gonna need him before it's all said and done, and he's gonna make big kicks for us."
On whether he's concerned about his receivers: "We're not nearly as explosive as we need to be. Our pass game has been spotty at best. For us to go as an offense, that has got to be a factor to the opponent. And right now, I don't know if we're posing anything to our opponent from a pass game standpoint that (scares) them. So we've got to clean that up for sure."
On whether, as a coach, he chose to light into this team and blast players or whether he took the more calm approach Saturday night? "Well I think the best coaches in the world are great teachers," he said. "I'm a leader of men, and I think it's really important to be very clear with my messaging, and sometimes when you get loud and yell and berate people, they miss the message because all they hear is loud and berating. So I try to be very clear and concise with my message with them so they know what we're going to work on next week, so that's the approach we took."
Saturday's game at DKR kicks off at 7 at Royal-Memorial Stadium. It's a Longhorn Network game. The Horns opened as 26-point favorites. ... The Sept. 25 home game against Texas Tech will kick off at 11 a.m., it was announced today.