Bohls: Texas loses again — to Kansas, of all teams — and must question Sarkisian's hiring
- Texas loses for the fifth consecutive game, but this was the most crushing of all. It was to Kansas.
- The school won't fire Sarkisian after one year, but a 4-6 record looks troubling for the future.
- "Of course, we're devastated," Longhorn defensive end Ovie Oghoufo said after the overtime defeat.
They lost to Kansas.
At home, where Darrell Royal’s name is on the stadium.
As a 31-point favorite.
Again, we repeat, it was Kansas. Yeah, that Kansas.
Texas lost 57-56 to Kansas on Saturday night when a fullback named Jared Casey caught a two-point pass in overtime on his first offensive snap of the game.
But then Texas has become an un-football team in 2021. Undisciplined. Undeniably bad. Unsure of itself. Undermanned. Maybe unable to get to six wins and qualify for a bowl.
And un-til it begins to play like a team, a complete team, a team that doesn’t commit four turnovers to Kansas’ none, one that doesn’t get called for 10 penalties for 97 yards, including one for unsportsmanlike conduct in overtime on Marcus Washington after his nice touchdown and another on Keondre Coburn after a heroic stop on fourth-and-1, it will keep losing.
Maybe to West Virginia next Saturday on the road.
And to teams like, say, Kansas. That would be a 1-8 Kansas team before Saturday. Kansas’ Lance Leipold, a really good coach in his first year in Lawrence, got his signature win at Royal-Memorial Stadium with the school’s first Big 12 road win since 2008 and first over the Longhorns in Austin ever.
Shockingly, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t resign on the spot. Charlie Strong practically did five years ago — and would have if he had not had one more game to play on that 2016 schedule. They let him coach that one before giving him his pink slip.
Equally shockingly, athletic director Chris Del Conte, UT President Jay Hartzell and UT System regents Chairman Kevin Eltife weren’t in the back of the Longhorns' meeting room, scowling and demanding answers from the offensive genius they thought they were hiring in January.
The question looms large, one greater than all others:
Can Sarkisian survive this?
For now, he can. But is the die already cast in this crushing setback? He’d better make some staff changes to keep people placated and appease those who hired him. Tom Herman remade his staff after 2019, but that was after his third season.
Saturday's searing loss had 66-3 to 1-2 UCLA in 1997 written all over it — the year John Mackovic went 4-7 and got canned in Year Six — but again, this was to KANSAS. Texas made history on this night, and not the good kind.
“Defensively, we didn’t play anywhere near our capability,” Sarkisian said. “At some point, we have to play better.”
You only thought Herman was a bad coach. You know, the flighty, temperamental head coach who head-butted his own players and secured the bag and once challenged another coach to a fight. The AD said he was coming back, then changed his mind and fired him in January.
But you know what? For all his faults, Herman had four winning seasons here, won all four of his bowl games and — get this — never lost to Kansas. Ever. And he got sacked after a 7-3 record by a Texas administration that thought he had lost his team during a season-long controversy over the school’s alma mater. Hmm. This team would kill for seven victories. Heck, five. This was humbling.
Sarkisian? He hasn’t finished Year One. Oh, some might say he’s finished, and it’s absolutely fair to say he’s done a horrible job and now lost five straight games. No, not five overall. Five in a row, the most in 65 years, since pre-DKR 1956.
One of them to — drum roll — Kansas.
And Kansas doesn’t beat anybody.
According to ESPN Stats, the Jayhawks were 0-100 in games when they were underdogs of 24 points or more since 1978. They’re now 1-100. Yea for Kansas.
“It says up on that wall the team that has discipline, commitment, toughness and accountability all the time wins the games,” Sarkisian said. “We clearly didn’t play that way in the first half. We can’t stop the run. We can’t contain the quarterback on third down. That’s a problem. Until we figure out what it takes, we’re going to be swimming upstream.”
Or drowning in a sea of incompetence.
So after the unthinkable happened, is it too soon to ask exactly what the Texas administration and pretty much every burnt-orange fan must be thinking?
Sarkisian, at every opportunity, has said this team “has plenty of talent.” Well, that’s an indictment of the coaching staff. And now that the drama and turmoil off the field are threatening to keep pace with all of it on the field with leaked videos and Halloween monkeys, well, Sarkisian’s honeymoon is so over, you can’t help but wonder if the Texas brass is working on an annulment.
Is this a bad fit? It didn’t seem like it. The man can call plays, Nick Saban believed in Sarkisian, and he’s got a good rep in the coaching community. But he deserves immense blame for mismanaging the musical chair that is the quarterback position, he didn’t have the team emotionally ready for Arkansas, he falsely bragged on a defensive line that’s been terrible, he ran that insane fake punt on fourth-and-11 against Baylor, and he’s blown so many double-digit second-half leads that he changed it up and trailed by 21 in Saturday’s first half. That didn’t work out too well, either.
(We pause in this diatribe to dutifully applaud the heroic efforts of Xavier Worthy, the best freshman wide receiver in school history after his three touchdowns and 14 catches for 152 yards; Casey Thompson for his amazing six touchdown passes and 358 yards; and Marcus Washington for a TD and a blocked punt. OK, that’s enough.)
There’s no clear answer to where this goes with Sarkisian. I think the man’s a good coach, but maybe he’s not head coaching material. With five straight defeats after a 4-1 start, everything has to be on the table.
In six full seasons at Washington and USC, he had one losing season, three 7-6 seasons and two other four-loss seasons, so this year isn’t an aberration.
And the future is equally murky, given Texas has three high-quality players in the now-injured Bijan Robinson (elbow), Worthy and Thompson, and a defense that’s one of the worst rush units in school history. Sarkisian has to flush this season as fast as he can.
“Yeah, 4-6 is not ideal,” Thompson said. “I’m very hopeful and trying to stay positive that something positive will happen for us, whether it’s next week or next season.”
The administration won’t entertain questions about Sarkisian’s future within 11 months of his hiring. Del Conte didn’t respond to a text late Saturday night.
And to fire Sarkisian this year would cost Texas in the neighborhood of $40 million since the head coach signed a fully guaranteed, six-year, $34.2 million contract with annual escalating bonuses of $200,000, as well as three coaches including defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski making more than $1 million a year and seven other assistants.
And it cost Texas immeasurably more in reputation and perception. It would be ethical suicide to look that unstable. Plus, the administration would have to explain how it botched the hire and fired him within 12 months. That’d leave a mark.
Maybe Sarkisian will rescue himself and turn this around, but does anyone have any faith in him at the moment?
“I think we have great coaches and great game plans,” Thompson said. “It just comes down to mano a mano.”
And Texas hasn’t had the men. And perhaps Sarkisian isn’t the man for the job.
Consider that Texas never led until its first series in overtime. That alone is insulting on its home field. I mean, we’re talking Kansas. Next season now brings an urgency that no one could have expected.
"It just sucks, losing," Worthy said. "We came out in the first half kind of sluggish, and that wasn't really us."
Sure looked like Texas.
For Sarkisian, he has to be asking himself the same questions that Longhorn Nation and the entire college football world are asking.
And the unrest might only be gearing up.
How could a team that should have beaten Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and blew four consecutive second-half leads in a row look this pitiful and this poorly coached and play this badly? And does anyone still think Sarkisian is the right guy for this job or is he totally in over his head? Where’s Ted Lasso when you need him?
Texas recruiting notebook:Longhorns commits react positively to the Bo Davis video
Winning is admittedly hard. But it shouldn’t be this hard, especially against a team that ranks last in the Big 12 in offense and last in the Big 12 in defense. The Jayhawks would rank 11th if there were 11 teams in the league.
"Of course, we're devastated," Texas defensive end Ovie Oghoufo said.
The bright spots were few and far between, not that hardly anybody noticed. The comebacks from a 21-point deficit will be lost forever as the team that was booed at halftime solemnly walked off the field with this sobering memory.
The fans remarkably stayed for the most part, their numbers charitably announced as 95,202 even though probably 20,000 of those weren’t really there and most of the rest wished they weren’t after such a horrendous loss.
Did we mention it was to Kansas?
Texas at West Virginia, 11 a.m., ESPN2, 104.9