Sarkisian focused on Iowa State, second half of season after Red River Rivalry win


Peyton Sims

While wearing the gold hat, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian poses with his football team. On Oct. 8, 2022, UT beat OU 49-0.

Hunter Dworaczyk, Senior Sports Reporter

Despite the magnitude of its 49-0 drubbing of Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl Stadium this Saturday, No. 22 Texas didn’t celebrate the outcome for very long.

During his weekly press conference Monday, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said the coaching staff met Sunday morning and put the game to bed.

“I thought our guys really came out this morning with good intent (and) dialed in to what we’re trying to do,” Sarkisian said. “(There’s) a lot of learning on Mondays for us, but I like the intent of where they’re at.”

Next up for the Longhorns is the Iowa State Cyclones, who look on paper like Texas’ most favorable matchup for the remainder of the season. After Iowa State, the Longhorns’ final five opponents currently have a combined 23-4 record. Meanwhile, the Cyclones sit at a 3-3 record without a conference win.

However, with three straight losses to the Cyclones, Texas cannot afford to overlook this week’s opponent. Iowa State gave Texas its biggest loss of the season the last time the two programs met, beating the Longhorns 30-7 in Ames. 

Texas had a 7-3 lead going into the half last year, before Iowa State scored 27 unanswered points in the second half.

“We didn’t play great last year against Iowa State at their place,” Sarkisian said. “I think our guys are hungry to go out and play a better brand of football this year.”

Helping the Longhorns’ cause will be the debut of senior tight end Jahleel Billingsley. A transfer from Alabama, Billingsley finished serving a six-game suspension given to him by the NCAA and is eligible to make his first appearance for Texas.

Reunited with his former offensive coordinator, Sarkisian, Billingsley possesses a mixture of size and speed that makes him a potential matchup nightmare.

“He’s really like a receiver at tight end,” junior defensive back Jahdae Barron said. “He has good speed and good route running, so (he’s) really a cheat code.”

Billingsley’s entrance gives Texas the luxury of depth at the tight end position. Currently, sophomore tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders is on pace to have one of the best seasons any Texas tight end has ever had.

Although Billingsley’s return could mean fewer touches for Sanders, who leads the team in receiving touchdowns, Sarkisian said inserting Billingsley could actually enhance Sanders’ role on offense.

“We’ve got a multitude of personnel groupings, formations, motions, shifts, things of that nature,” Sarkisian said. “I think (Billingsley) can just add to that. It should not take away from (Sanders) at all.”

Halfway through the regular season, Texas holds a 4-2 record. Last season, Texas held the same record at this point before losing five out of its last six games to finish the year without a bowl invite.

Named the Cheez-It Bowl National Team of the Week, the hype around No. 22 Texas is growing after its emphatic Red River Showdown win. Nevertheless, the recent praise will not mean much if the Longhorns repeat last season’s meltdown in the second half of this season.

“One of the keys to being a great team is to not be influenced by the outside noise,” Sarkisian said. “You’ve got to rinse and repeat. Rinse the last ball game and then you got to dive right back into what got you that level of success last week.”