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Sarkisian hopes Texas uses loss to Oklahoma as ‘fuel’ going forward

Notes from Sark’s Monday press conference.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

“Losing sucks.”

Those were the words of Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian on Monday following a heartbreaking 34-30 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners.

“I don’t know if you ever just wash it away,” Sarkisian said about the last-second loss. I’m hopeful we don’t walk out of that stadium Saturday and [come] back here in Austin and leave the game up there. I hope we carry this one with us for a little bit and I hope it fuels us to be even better than we can be moving forward.”

Recapping the loss to Oklahoma: The first thing Sark mentioned in regard to Saturday’s loss was the three turnovers lost by the offense. It wasn’t so much the points lost off those turnovers since the defense did a good job minimizing the damage, but the momentum the offense lost.

“The nine penalties were an issue because that’s out of character for us.”

And then there’s the issues in the red zone. Texas reached the red zone three times but generated just three points out of those trips.

“Quite frankly, that is probably the biggest deciding factor in the game. Our ability to move the ball wasn’t in question, but our ability to put the ball in the endzone was. Conversely, they have six trips into the red zone and scored 34 points.”

Sark also mentioned Oklahoma’s two-minute offense. “Obviously, the end of half and the end of the game defense and our inability to get stops there were issues.”

Any positives? Yes — Sark was impressed with Bert Auburn’s perfect day, including a 47-yard field goal that put Texas up with just over a minute left in the game. Sark also mentioned the blocked punt, the fake punt, and the grit from the Longhorns.

“I loved our competitiveness, I loved our resiliency, our grit, our toughness, our fight even when we weren’t at our best Saturday.”

About that last play: Yeah, you know the play where Oklahoma had two wide receivers and only Jerrin Thompson back to defend both of them?

“We have a pressure called, we don’t cover it right, we don’t execute the pressure. We have two guys running in the same gap and one guy can block two and allows the quarterback to hold the ball and throw the touchdown.”

Despite all of that, Sarkisian still feels good about the progress the team has made heading into the second half of the season.

“I think the biggest thing that comes out of this for me is with all that being said, we had a great opportunity to win the game. And if that’s the worst, we’re going to be okay.”

About that Texas drive: “I would’ve handled that drive exactly the same,” Sark said about the last Texas drive that yielded a 47-yard Bert Auburn field goal.

Bye-week breather: The bye week is big for Texas because it allows the team to get healthy, according to Sark. “We are a little bit banged up as a football team. It would be nice to get a little bit more healthy than we are right now.”

When asked about the status of Ryan Watts and Jake Majors, Sark said he will know more after the bye week. Ja’Tavion Sanders entered the Oklahoma game banged up but still played through it.

“We were just trying to monitor [Sanders] on how he was moving. I know it was frustrating because he couldn’t be at his best. There were some plays that I’m glad he was out there and some other plays that I’m sure were frustrating for him that he wasn’t able to execute the way he’s normally able to execute.”

Jalen Catalon is also day-to-day after coming up injured against the Sooners.

With Cole Hutson still unavailable, redshirt freshman Conner Robertson stepped in at center once Majors went out and Sark thought the Austin Westlake alum “did a nice job.”

Hayden Connor was also not at “100%” on Saturday.

Sarkisian also wants to use this bye week to address their issues “collectively and individually.” Creating more turnovers, improving the red zone offense, improving the two-minute defense, and getting more out of the return game were areas that Sark mentioned.

The team will practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before the staff will head out to recruit over the weekend. The staff will get back together on Sunday and Monday will back to back to business as usual.

“Everything is still right in front of us:” Despite the loss, the Longhorns are in still a good position to reach the Big 12 Championship. While they don’t control their own destiny, Sark's message to the team is “everything is still right in front of us.”

“Nobody likes to lose a game but we got to go handle our business and we’re more than capable of that.”

Red-zone hiccups: Sark and his staff have watched every single red zone snap this year and have been “drilling it down to every level”.

“I feel very comfortable in the fact that we’ll have a good plan in the second half of the season for the players because like I told the staff, we’re moving the ball too well offensively right now not to have more points on the board.”

Sark was frank when asked about his play-calling at the one-yard line that failed to produce any points after four straight plays.

“It sucked,” Sark said with a chuckle.

“If I could do it all over again, I would have changed the third-down call. I might have ran what I ran on fourth down on third down. I don’t know if that’s creative or it stubborn whatever it was I went back to the first down call on third down and obviously not effective enough and I’d love for us to execute it a little bit better than we did.”

Ewers is a guy “we can count on:” “For any quarterback that throws two picks on your first two drives that you’re on the field, that can rattle you pretty good. And the response that he showed - at one point I think he completed 19 passes in a row I thought was really tremendous.”

On the pressure or lack of against Dillon Gabriel: “We all want to pressure the quarterback and sometimes in-game trying to sack the quarterback isn’t the best thing to do because that’s when you create a big rush lane and you create a really big gap for the quarterback to run through or you try to come underneath the tackle and now you let the quarterback flush out to his left and buy more time.”

Gabriel generated critical plays for the Sooners with his legs and led the team with 113 rushing yards.

“I think we need to be mindful of how we rush and who we’re rushing against. And then, just making sure we’re on the same page in the secondary. We can’t have two critical breakdowns in that type of game and in that moment of the game.”