“I know we had some self-inflicted wounds in the first half that took two touchdowns off the board...but I thought our guys did a great job of keeping their poise and composure. I thought defensively, our ability to stop the run to them one dimensional and we gave up the one pop pass to the tight end there but I thought our defense had a heck of a game.”
Sark spoke on the team not panicking after only scoring six points in the first half against Iowa State and believes “that’s a sign of maturity for our team.”
The win not only kept Texas alive in the CFP hunt and the Big 12 title race, but it was their 10th win of the season.
“It’s a great benchmark for us to hit but we’re not done yet and we know there’s more out there for us to do.”
While the Longhorns could still clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship with a loss, they can avoid the tiebreakers altogether with a win against Texas Tech on Friday.
“[Texas Tech] had a really tough start to the season...they were fighting that injury bug earlier in the year and now you can see them getting healthier and healthier and they’ve strung together three-in-a-row.”
Here are the notes on Sark’s Monday press conference.
Injury update: “I feel actually pretty good on a Monday,” Sark said. “We had a variety of guys that went down [but] I don’t see foresee any of those guys being out Friday.”
That includes Xavier Worthy, DJ Campbell, and Ja’Tavion Sanders.
Longhorns in the transfer portal?: “We haven’t really addressed it,” Sark said. “We’re in the midst of a championship there’s just not a lot of time to have those meetings with players that way. I’ll probably have a better opportunity in the next week after this game but I think, quite frankly if not all the majority of the players in our locker room right now are just trying to compete with one another to put us in the best chance to be successful to try to win a championship.”
However, Sark isn’t naive to the fact that other teams have already reached out to some of his players to gauge their interest in transferring out of the program. He also used the question as a pitch to those who are possibly thinking of leaving after the season.
“I’m hopeful that all of our guys enjoy this experience that’s going on right now,’ Sark preached. “I’d hate for them to miss what’s going on right now because they might not get this back. This is something that will last a lifetime.”
Sark ended with this: “This is a pretty cool time right now to be a Texas Longhorn football player so I’m hoping that they’re enjoying it.”
High praise for Baxter and Blue: With Cedric Baxter and Jaydon Blue filling in for Jonathon Brooks, Sark was encouraged by what he saw. “I thought Baxter got stronger as the game went on” and Blue’s ability to convert the game-sealing 4th down “speaks volumes to the development and growth that he has as a player and how far he has come.”
Sark owes seniors “a ton” heading into Senior Night: “For the seniors that were here when we got here, and the guys that are still here that have persevered through three years of it all, I owe them a ton because without them trusting us, the other players in the program would have a harder time trusting us.”
Sark hopes Texas “puts on a show” for Brett Yormark: With the Big 12 Commissioner going to be in Austin for Friday’s game, Sark is “hopeful [Texas] puts on one heck of a show”.
“Leave no doubt”: That is the message Sarkisian is preaching to his team this week with an opportunity of reaching the Big 12 Championship.
“We control our own destiny. Let’s go handle business our business the way we know how to do it. It’s a tall talk. It’s going to be a tough game Friday night. But in the end, let’s not leave it up to somebody else.”
“What an invaluable player he’s been for our program”: That’s how Sark described Jaylan Ford when asked about his development.
Sark admitted his staff did not know a whole lot about the linebacker when they got to Austin because of a lack of playing time. But in the three years he’s been under Sark, they’ve seen him grow on the field and off of it.
“The way he goes about his business, the cerebral aspect of the game, the versatility of his game, the playmaking at critical moments. All those things add up and we’re obviously very fortunate to have had him.”
More emphasis on this game than others? “We haven’t necessarily had to put more of an emphasis on this game because after the [Oklahoma[ game, I’ve made it a point that every game is a Big 12 Championship game. We feel like we’ve been playing Big 12 Championship games one week after another and we just did not want to put ourselves in a position where we were relying on other people.”
“Culture beats talent”: “I think the first thing about culture is culture is organic. It’s not a sign up in your building. It’s not a T-shirt that you wear. It’s not breaking the team down and saying ‘culture on three.’ I think culture is organic. It manifests itself with the relationships that you build.”
Sark then talked about the characteristics that come with a good culture including commitment, discipline, accountability, mental and physical toughness, love, vulnerability, and transparency.
“Who you are some of the time is who you are all of the time.”
Sark shared an example of players cleaning the team room after meetings. It started with Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, then the whole running back room, and now everyone stops and cleans up.
“I think culture beats talent. Culture and talent together is a pretty powerful force.”
The maturation of Jordan Whittington: “I think Jordan has really matured. For the last two years, he’s been the first guy in our building. Now he’s got six or seven guys showing up with him. When he broke his collarbone against OU, he contemplated not playing football anymore. And I wouldn’t let him not play football anymore.”
“The selflesness he plays the game is very rare but he’s instilling in others how to play the game. I don’t know if there’s another guy in our locker room who is more respected than Jordan Whittington.”
Sark’s Checklist: When asked how much of the ‘things I would do if ever got another head coaching job’ checklist, Sark said a “great deal of it” has been checked off.
“I learned a lot personally in that time and I said to myself ‘If I get another chance, my players are going to get to know me’. The only way to do that is, I have to be vulnerable with them. I have to be transparent with them. I always make sure that they get a sense of who I am and what’s important to me. And then the second part of that is, what is the best version of Steve Sarkisian? How do I bring that every single day?
So I tried to create a culture that is upbeat, that is positive, but yet is very demanding of what it looks like. There’s a style of play that I was very clear-minded on how we wanted to play the game and I think we kind of see what that looks like now. I don’t think we’re done yet. I don’t think we’re a finished product at all.
Texas Tech running back Tahj Brooks: “He’s got great contact balance. The first guy has a hard time getting him down. They’re a physical running football team. There’s been a philosophical shift that Joey has implemented in that team.”
On if Sark knew about the SEC move when he took the Texas job “No I did not know. And my approach did not change. You win football games up front. We had to continue to recruit really big humans. My mindset was to compete for championships. You better be able to beat the top teams in the SEC because they are the ones you’re going to have to beat in the college football playoff.”