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Steve Sarkisian: Looking for someone to blame for Texas' problems? 'That's directly on me'

Steve Sarkisian's regular weekly press conference very much had a pall cast over it, and why not? After all, consider:

Texas is 2-5 in the Big 12, which is only one game ahead of the Kansas Jayhawks.

Speaking of the Jayhawks, Texas is coming off a 57-56 national embarrassment — a 57-56 overtime loss — and gave up the third-most points in a game in school history.

This season, which began with so much promise, has been off the tracks for weeks.

And, the cherry to Monday's presser, now the Longhorns' best player — running back Bijan Robinson — will miss the rest of the season.

Looking for someone to blame? Look no further than Sarkisian himself, the coach said.

"Clearly everybody's upset," he said. "We're upset. Everybody feels the frustration in what has occurred. But I can assure you nobody's more upset, nobody's more frustrated than we are in the performance because we put in a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of work not to play the football that is the standard here at the University of Texas. That's directly on me."

Golden: Loss to Kansas has reeling Longhorns back to square one

Bohls: It's time to ask, did Texas make a mistake hiring Sarkisian?

More: Texas fans express shock, disappointment over loss to Kansas

Highlights of Sarkisian's press conference:

Texas' best player is out for the rest of the season

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian has seen his Longhorns lose their last five games, something that hasn't happened at UT since the 1956 season. "Clearly everybody's upset," he said Monday. "We're upset. Everybody feels the frustration in what has occurred."

Bijan Robinson's third quarter injury was a dislocated elbow, and the star running back is shut down for the rest of the season.

Also, starting cornerback Josh Thompson suffered a fractured fibula (leg) and will miss the rest of the season as well. And freshman running back Jonathon Brooks (shoulder) is considered week to week ("We'll see how it goes, if we can get him back before the end of the season.")

Third-string running back and special teams standout Keilan Robinson, who missed the Kansas loss because of COVID-19 protocols, is expected to be cleared to resume practice on Tuesday, Sarkisian said.

Roschon Johnson, who's been battling a turf toe, will take over the running game with Keilan Robinson getting more touches, too.

Sarkisian also said there's "a chance" that Jordan Whittington, who's been out with a broken collarbone suffered late against Oklahoma, could play this week.

Sarkisian's secret plan to fix Texas? Still a secret.

Perhaps the most frustrating question and answer of the day came right off the bat, with the first question Sarkisian fielded. It came from Terry Middleton of Horns Illustrated, who basically wanted to know what Sarkisian has identified as this team's biggest problems and what the coach is actually doing or going to do to fix them.

Fair enough to ask, even if the question did frame Sarkisian as "extraordinary" and the players on his roster as "juggernauts." (Let's not forget: 57-56).

Middleton: "Coach, a couple of years ago one of my good friends and I were facing a massive problem we couldn't solve, and in his wisdom he said, 'You know, at this point we need to stop and ask ourselves: what would an extraordinary person do in this situation?' This resonated with me the whole weekend, and I realized that of all the coaches who could be standing at that podium right now in those shoes, you are that extraordinary person and you have a team what I call coaching juggernauts. This is not only my opinion, this is a fact — I don't think anyone can dispute this. So my question is, we write, you know, the Sarkisian Era story and we're not even done with the first chapter yet. Can you unfold some of the onion of what are you working on, how are you solving this problem? I realize that you might not even know. But I want to steal from Julian Edelman: It's gonna be one hell of a story."

Spoiler alert: There was no unfolding of onions.

Sarkisian's answer: "Yeah, I think first of all, one, when you take this job — and I've said this before, but I think now is a pertinent time to say it — you have to know what you sign up for. You don't take the job at the University of Texas without some expectation of scrutiny. There's a reason I got hired, there's a reason there was a coaching change. So clearly you have to understand (a) there's some things that are in there that I have to get figured out, that I have to get done; (2) it might not just be smooth sailing all the way, there's gonna be bumps in the road, there's gonna be rocky waters that we're gonna have to navigate our way through, and (3) you've got to recognize that through those times, there's gonna be scrutiny, and that starts with me, our staff and then ultimately our players whether it's deserving or not. That's the arena that I've put myself in and you have to recognize that. So I'm very comfortable understanding where I stand and what the responsibilities are of what I have to do.

"Sometimes through the struggle, which clearly we're in the midst of, you start to get a little more clarity on some of the issues. If we had found a way to win some of these fourth quarter games, if we had found a way to win this game in overtime, sometimes those issues get masked over with winning. Sometimes winning can kind of cure it all. One of the mentors of mine always told me: Playing bad and winning is sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you because you don't address the issues that you have on your team. We unfortunately have lost a lot of close games, so it continues to present issues to us that we have to address. That's why you try to hire a great staff, which I believe we have."

So, basically, either Sarkisian doesn't know what this team's specific problems are or he chose not to share them, but he absolutely knows that he's the guy who was hired to fix those issues and that he knows everybody knows and expects and will scrutinize his choices

Did that make you feel better, Longhorn Nation?

Other related program questions:

  • Sarkisian was asked by our own Brian Davis if anyone above the coach has told him to make some staff changes. Sarkisian said no, that hasn't happened.
  • The coach was asked if the team's defensive issues — or "debacle," as KLBJ's Ed Clements phrased it — was the problem of Pete Kwiatkowski's scheme or the players trying to execute Pete Kwiatkowski's scheme. Sarkisian's answer was right in the middle, as he pointed out that this is the third different defensive scheme players have had in as many years, and that right now the Longhorns are "hesitating" out there on the field.
  • He was asked just how long this fix will take. "The reality of it is, things take time," Sarkisian said. "I'm probably as impatient as everybody else. We all want it to happen quicker rather than later, and so that's the race, right? Everyone says this thing, if you talk to coaches, is a marathon, not a sprint. But I'm of the adage: why can't you sprint a marathon? What would it look like if we could get there quicker than the expectation is?"
  • Kirk Bohls asked if Sarkisian expects more turnover and transfers. "I'm looking at the way this thing is shaping up and some of the new NCAA rules. I could easily see us with 33 new scholarship players on our team by next fall. ... We have to find the right balance into how much we interact in the portal as opposed to how much we dive into recruiting really good young players out of high school and then developing them."
  • Bohls also asked if Sarkisian thinks he needs to get more involved with the defense, not just the offense (Sarkisian calls Texas' offensive plays). Sarkisian said he could see that happening more in the offseason, not in the next couple of weeks. 
  • Davis asked if simply bulking up on the offensive and defensive lines with talent and depth would fix a lot of this team's issues. Sarkisian agreed.

Texcetera

Texas (4-6, 2-5) and West Virginia (4-6, 2-5) are two of three teams (TCU) tied for seventh place in the Big 12 standings. ... Freshman wide receiver Xavier Worthy has UT's single-season receiving touchdowns record in sight; Worthy has 11 so far, which is only one behind the 12 caught by Limas Sweed in 2006 and Roy Williams in 2002, and Jordan Shipley's school-record 13 caught in 2009. ... As we suspected Saturday night, the decision to put Card into the game on the drive (Texas' second) after Thompson led the Horns to a touchdown had nothing to do with Thompson, but it was the plan all along to play the redshirt freshman on the third drive. "We were gonna monitor it from there," Sarkisian said. As it turned out, Card played three drives and then was supplanted by Thompson, who played the rest of the game. ... Also as expected, Thompson will be Texas' starter this week.

Saturday's game in Morgantown kicks off at 11 a.m. — Texas' sixth 11 a.m. kickoff this season. It's an ESPN2 broadcast. Last year's game in Austin was a 17-13 Longhorns victory. Texas has won three of its last four meetings with West Virginia, including 42-31 (2019) and 28-14 (2017) wins in Morgantown.

West Virginia is a 2-point favorite this week.