Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Sarkisian reflects on bye week, looks towards Houston

Lorianne Willett
Tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders is tackled during Texas’ game against OU on Oct. 7, 2023.

After a bye week break to reflect on the Red River Rivalry, head coach Steve Sarkisian is ready to go for Texas football’s matchup at Houston on Saturday.

“I think, inevitably for us, we’re back to game week,” Sarkisian said. “We’re playing a really good Houston team on the road.”

Sarkisian and the Longhorns spent the week with a major focus: getting healthy. Injuries were a key in the loss to Oklahoma, with junior offensive lineman Jake Majors suffering an injury early in the game, resulting in redshirt freshman Connor Robertson entering the game. Sophomore Cole Hutson was the original center backup, but he, alongside senior defensive back Ryan Watts, were both out with injury entering the contest.

“We had some guys that were a little banged up after the first half of the season,” Sarkisian said. “To get them as healthy as we could get them (last) week was good.”

Sarkisian said that Majors, junior tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders and Watts were not playing during the bye week in an effort to get healthy, but as the Houston prep ramps up all players are able to practice. He added that Hutson was the most limited of the group, but seemed confident in others’ availability on Saturday.“I’m gonna have to make that decision later in the week of who is really ready to play,” Sarkisian said.

The Longhorns will face a battle-tested Houston team, with many familiar faces. Though the Cougars joined the Big 12 this season, their starting quarterback Donovan Smith led Texas Tech in an upset win over the Longhorns the year prior.

“We’re getting ready to play an experienced quarterback which we all know all too well,” Sarkisian said. “We know this team presents a lot of challenges.”

While Texas was on bye, Houston won a back-and-forth nailbiter against West Virginia, taking the two-point win on a last-second hail mary, something the Longhorns couldn’t convert on in their game the week prior.

Sarkisian spent his bye week reflecting on his own team, noting strengths in efficiency on the offense.

“We’re moving the ball at a really high clip offensively right now,” Sarkisian said. “One area that jumped out to me is how efficient we’ve been on fourth down, which is something that we knew we wanted to be aggressive (with) this year. But the effectiveness of the aggressiveness is something that has stood out to me.”

Conversely, he admitted he needed to work on the team’s red zone offense, a struggle from the loss versus Oklahoma. 

“Our red zone execution is an area where, if we want to be the team that we think we’re capable of being, we have to take that to another level,” Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian additionally noted on the defense, specifically about turnovers. The team is ranked in the bottom thirty of FBS teams in offensive starting field position, an important offensive component that is directly influenced by turnovers. 

“We have got to continually as a staff emphasize getting the ball off of our opponents,” Sarkisian said.

The third-year head coach has been through his second Red River defeat, and he now knows what it takes not to collapse after a game like that. In 2021, in his first year as a head coach, Texas entered the Red River Rivalry at 4-1. After their loss to Oklahoma, Texas lost their next five games, finishing the season 1-6 in Big 12 matchups. This season, however, Sarkisian wants to change the narrative and get his team back focused.

“Last week I wanted to make sure that I re-sparked the competitive spirit,” Sarkisian said. “Practice remained highly competitive last week.”

With six more Big 12 games left in the schedule, Texas has a wide-open path to the Big 12 championship, but the Longhorns need to get focused and ready for the rest of the season, starting with an away game and a sold-out crowd in Houston.

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About the Contributors
Evan Vieth, Senior Sports Reporter
Evan is a junior journalism major and the sports editor for the Texan. He is originally from Washington DC and has covered UT sports for 4 semesters and counting. He has covered the Men's Tennis, Soccer, Baseball and Football teams and had the opportunity to write about the 2023 Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl.
Lorianne Willett, Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.