Steve Sarkisian: Fixing the third and fourth quarters comes down to trust, confidence
Texas football is back at it this week, which means that after one week off, the questions are back as well.
Just who are these Longhorns, who looked in much, much better shape three weeks ago coming off a nice win at TCU but have looked shaky against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, particularly in the second half? Is Casey Thompson the guy? Can the offensive line get right? What will Pete Kwiatkowski do to fix the defense, which has gotten roughed up the last two games?
Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian has had a week to figure out how to fix the bleeding. Texas got the chance to get some injured players a little more healthy, to work on some schemes and plays for the second half of the season, and just catch their breaths — "from the psyche standpoint" is how he put it — to take a step back and refocus.
Or, as Sarkisian put it: "When you're capable of doing something, and you do the necessary repetition of it, the circumstances shouldn't determine your ability to do something or not."
What that means: Practice makes perfect, do your homework and hopefully that comes into play come the third and fourth quarters, which have been a real problem.
Or, as he put it in layman's terms soon after: "If you're capable to do something in the first or second quarter, and the looks remain the same in the third and fourth quarter, clearly if we don't execute it, that's not really the opponent at that point, that's us being distracted by some outside influence, whether that's the score, sometimes it's fatigue, whatever that is, the key for us is can we keep doing the right thing, whatever is asked of us, for an extended period of time? And we wouldn't ask them to do something that we don't think they're capable of doing and they've shown that they were capable of doing it, so now it's our job to get them to sustain that and continue to do it regardless of the moment, regardless of how big we think that play is."
Highlights from Sarkisian's press conference:
Are the Horns focused? We'll see
Texas' next two games (at Baylor and then at Iowa State) happen to come against two teams that are sitting in front of them in the Big 12 race. Both the Bears and Cowboys are 3-1 in conference play, which is tied with Oklahoma State for second place in the standings behind 5-0 Oklahoma.
Texas, at 2-2, needs these next two games. So, this is opportunity time to get back into this thing. Sarkisian preached preparation and trust on Monday. How will his team respond on Saturday?
Sarkisian said there's still a lot of football left, and that "we put ourselves in the position that we are."
"They read, they see, they know what's happening," he said. "But the point of it is, bigger than that, is us playing really well on Saturday. If we trust our process and go through our process, we'll get the results we want — whether that's this week, two weeks, three weeks, whatever that is, end of the season. So it's one thing to recognize what may be ahead, but if you look too far ahead, you miss what's right in front of you."
Is this on the coaches or players?
Both, Sarkisian thinks.
Anwar Richardson of Orangebloods asked about accountability. "Coach, you know the old saying is 'players win games, coaches lose them,' so I'm just curious what do you feel like you guys as a staff maybe could be doing better after two straight losses — whether it's in game, practice, whatever?"
Sarkisian: "I've never heard that adage before, but I'll take it."
Texas wins as a team and loses as a team is how Sarkisian said he looks at it. He explained that coaches want to make sure everything they do, from the game plan to running practices to setting the depth chart, they do to make sure the players are successful on Saturdays. He said the bye gave coaches the chance to look back over the first seven games and answer these two questions: First, what is it that the Longhorns are doing well and how can they make sure that stuff continues to happen. Second, what is it that the Longhorns aren't doing well and do they want to keep trying to get it right or should they move on to another plan.
"We try to evaluate all of that so that in the next five ball games throughout the second half of the season, guys are very confident in what they're doing and feel good about it so that we're in position in the fourth quarter to go win a ball game," he said.
LB DeMarvion Overshown, who suffered a concussion in the loss to Oklahoma State, is back practicing. CB Kitan Crawford (hamstring) is considered day-to-day, and "the rest of the guys are in a good place," Sarkisian said. ... The coach called the wide receivers' season as up and down and said he's looking for consistency. ... Sarkisian was asked about the offensive line; he liked that Derek Kerstetter is back at right tackle, he thinks the Christian Jones vs. Andrej Karic battle at left tackle "has been good" for both, he thinks right guard Junior Angliau and center Jake Majors needed the week off to get right physically and he called new left guard Tope Imade having "a really good opportunity."... Texas leads the overall series with Baylor, 79-27-4. The Bears are 4-0 at home this season, including a pair of wins over ranked teams (Iowa State and BYU). ... Kickoff for the Nov. 6 game at Iowa State won't be announced till after this week's games, and we don't even know the network yet, either; it'll be aired either on Fox or ESPN.
Saturday's game at McLane Stadium in Waco kicks off at 11 a.m. — which will be Texas' fifth straight 11 a.m. kickoff. Baylor, which is No. 18 in the coaches poll and No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25, is a 2.5-point favorite.