The million-dollar question: Sarkisian, Ojomo ponder program’s poor performance as Big 12 struggles continue despite new staff

Nathan Han

As the clock struck zero on Saturday’s loss to Baylor, Kai Money raced towards the southwest McLane Stadium tunnel to get his fellow teammates back onto the field in Waco as the Longhorn band played “The Eyes of Texas.” 

“Juan! Juan!” the Texas wide receiver yelled for his teammate, tight end Juan Davis.

And as Davis and senior safety B.J. Foster made their way back onto the field for the school song, Baylor players began celebrating in front of their student section. Cheers and chants of “S-E-C” drowned out “The Eyes of Texas,” but Texas players held their heads high with their horns up. 

It was an oddly symbolic moment amid a turbulent season for the Longhorns — even beyond the ongoing “The Eyes of Texas” controversy — a moment that symbolized just how much Texas  struggled in the Big 12 in the past decade.

The team just hasn’t been able to figure out its conference, at least not for four full quarters. Of course, Texas will move to the SEC soon.

But the Big 12 demons that haunted Charlie Strong and Tom Herman came back on Halloween weekend for new head coach Steve Sarkisian. 

The recent three-game slide might be the most frustrating skid of them all: Texas is so close to winning each game. Yet it feels like the Longhorns are always just one poor play away from relinquishing a double-digit second half lead.

“You sit here at 4-4,” Sarkisian said at Monday’s press conference. “All of us here can probably count on one hand plays that we could be sitting here at 7-1, and this is a much different press conference.”

But it was a somber mood at the weekly press conference with Sarkisian and a host of Texas players because those plays didn’t go Texas’ way, just like they haven’t in the past decade.

That’s the million-dollar question: For all of Texas’s resources, for all of the school’s talent from a seemingly impenetrable ability to recruit and the football program’s brand that engineered the SEC move, where are the wins? 

“You can go really deep here if you want,” junior defensive lineman Moro Ojomo said. “First of all, when you think about dynasties, dynasties are built over time. If we’re being completely honest, this atmosphere is, in a way, a bit of an impatient atmosphere. I mean, I can understand why. It’s 100,000 people. We’ve got (the) sixth most millionaires in the U.S., you know, we’ve got a lot of people, a lot of power behind it. But nothing happens overnight.

When we have the turnover (of) coaches that we’ve had, you’re literally uprooting what the past coach had…You hope for a fortunate situation where the new coach isn’t having to uproot the past staff but is able to build on top of it.”

Ojomo believes the Longhorns are destined to leap back into championship contention. He’s right: somebody, somehow will find a way to parlay the inherent advantages at the Forty Acres to bring Texas back to its 2005 heights.

But it won’t happen during the defensive tackle’s junior season. It probably won’t happen next year in his senior season. For now, the Longhorns are 4-4 and far away from a Big 12 championship game, let alone a College Football Playoff berth. 

For now, the Longhorns will just have to keep their head up while opposing fans chant “S-E-C” and hopefully ignore the sinking feeling in their stomachs to make that one play when another second-half lead begins to dwindle.

Because that’s what happens at Texas: the pressure never ends.

“I have a true appreciation for the team that I saw here my freshman year and what they were able to accomplish and what they did,” Ojomo said. “I think I never understood the true pressure of starting (at) a university like this and playing at a university like this.”