AUSTIN, Texas — Don’t expect Big 12 official Kevin Mar and his crew to receive Christmas cards from Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian over the holidays.
But the conference office did receive a number of clips from the Texas staff highlighting what the Longhorns viewed as missed calls in Saturday’s 33-30 overtime win over Kansas State that left Sarkisian visibly frustrated on the field, in his post-game availability, and in his Monday press conference.
“I don’t necessarily complain. But what I do every week is I send in plays that I think there should have been a call or could this have been called or why wasn’t this called and they give us information back and then we try to coach off of that,” said Sarkisian.
“I do think there’s a lot of tools in that to kind of teach our players how to effectively not get held so that they can play to the best of their ability and how to avoid those things. But I do send things in because I want to learn, I don’t want to be the guy on the sidelines that’s just complaining to complain when clearly it is or isn’t a foul. Sometimes things come back and they do agree with me and then I just I’m just hopeful if that same situation gets presented in the future that call goes our way.”
Sarkisian likely included several clear instances of holding on the Kansas State offensive line, which spent much of the first half outright tackling Texas defensive linemen as senior defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat and junior defensive tackle Byron Murphy turned in stellar performances.
Texas’ Defensive Tackle duo in Week 10:— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 6, 2023
T’Vondre Sweat: 88.0 PFF Grade (2nd)
Byron Murphy II: 87.0 PFF Grade (3rd)
12 QB Pressures generated between the two pic.twitter.com/yBtChz0t1F
“In my opinion, we have the two most dominant defensive interior lineman in the country, and if not the country, in our conference, and I’m not sure if they’ve gotten a holding penalty called on either of them yet this year, so I’m not sure how that adds up,” said Sarkisian.
The Texas head coach was also frustrated with having to use a timeout to secure a review of the sack and forced fumble by sophomore Buck end Ethan Burke that was ultimately ruled a recovery by senior linebacker Jaylan Ford.
One video showed head official Kevin Mar repeatedly telling Burke “no” as he signaled in the direction of Texas after the play as if he had some personal feelings about that outcome.
“I was probably visibly frustrated at that moment. In the end, I got the timeout back that they did ultimately review the play and looking at it from their vantage point, I could see maybe where they couldn’t see the ball was kind of hidden in there and Jaylan Ford did a heck of a job of recovering that fumble,” said Sarkisian.
“It sure seemed like a relatively obvious play to review when you’re talking about a potential change of possession, but again, that’s why from my perspective as a coach, they give us the ability to challenge and to use timeouts to ensure that and so you just try to use the tools that are given to you to navigate your way through those things.”
One play that drew mention from Sarkisian after the game and on Monday was a no call on a potential pass interference in the second quarter on a pass intended for junior wide receiver Xavier Worthy.
Sarkisian: “(Worthy) hasn’t gotten a pass interference call against him over the last two games. That’s been tough.”— CJ Vogel (@CJVogel_TFB) November 6, 2023
Think Sarkisian has a true gripe here. pic.twitter.com/x0WbySxCpn
“He hasn’t gotten a pass interference called against him either over the last two games, so that’s been tough,” said Sarkisian when asked about Worthy’s issues turning targets into catches with Murphy at quarterback.
It was a pivotal moment in the game — Texas lead 17-0, but redshirt freshman quarterback Maalik Murphy had thrown an interception earlier in the quarter when freshman wide receiver Johntay Cook was tripped up on a route, killing momentum on a promising drive, and the Longhorns had just turned the ball over on downs in the Wildcats red zone on their previous possession.
So instead of having a 1st and 10 at the Kansas State 32-yard line, right at the edge of junior kicker Bert Auburn’s field-goal range, Texas went three and out and had the subsequent punt blocked due to a miscommunication in protection that led to a touchdown just before the half that cut the margin to 10 points.
It wasn’t the only missed call on Worthy, either — in the fourth quarter on a 3rd and 5 from the Kansas State 16-yard line with the game tied at 27-27, Worthy was held off the line of scrimmage and deep into his route, contributing to an incompletion that forced Texas to kick a field goal instead of having 1st and goal inside the 10-yard line.
“I think (Murphy) was throwing a touchdown to Xavier on the third down there in the red area. We didn’t get the pass interference or defensive holding call, we settle for the field goal,” said Sarkisian.
For Worthy’s part, he said the right things when he met with the media on Monday.
“It’s tough, you just gotta get to the next play and just forget about it,” said Worthy, before declining to estimate how many pass interference penalties against him have gone uncalled this season.
But players saying the right things publicly and Sarkisian sending plays to the league office doesn’t change the absurdity of how Texas games get called.
Week 10 update:— HornSports (@HornSports) November 5, 2023
Holding calls on opponent: Rice-0
Bama- 1 *SEC crew
Baylor- 1 (declined)
Houston- 1 (declined)
KSU- 1 (Texas was called for a late hit on the play)
Pass interference calls on opponent:
Bama- 2 *SEC crew…
“If things get called, they get called. If they don’t, we just don’t have a lot of time to complain about it. We’ve got to go on to the next play and the moment we start getting caught up in that, then it’s going to start to affect their play and our play to call the things necessary. It’s just the way it goes and I’ve said this all along — we need to focus on what we need to do and not get caught up on what’s getting called and what’s not,” said Sarkisian.