Preparing to face one of the nation's premiere rushing attacks, Steve Sarkisian preached all week leading up to Kansas State that his team needed to be the more physical side. After holding them to just 33 yards on the ground, you can definitively say they were,
“I was thoroughly impressed with the physicality in which we played that game,” Sarkisian said. “For us to come out and rush for over 230 yards and to hold [Kansas State] to 33 yards was a huge impact on the game.”
From the first possession, the Texas defensive line made their impact felt with T’Vondre Sweat to Ethan Burke to Byron Murphy.
“I thought our defensive line was absolutely dominant in the game and it was really across the board.”
Holding on for the victory along with a rockin’ DKR provided a moment of reflection for Sarkisian on Saturday afternoon.
“When I took this job, I envisioned being a championship-caliber team and having one of the most intimidating places to play in the country. For us to be in this situation and have our stadium sold out, rocking in a pivotal game in Big 12 play — that’s what it’s all about.”
But when there are positives, there will be negatives. Texas turned the ball over three times, including twice in their own territory which the Wildcats capitalized on. Add in the block punt and turnover on downs, “that’s basically five times we gave them the ball and four of those five were with a short field that created momentum.”
Sark believes Texas played well for the majority of the game but the “key for us is to minimize the self-inflicted wounds which can ultimately change the game.”
With TCU on deck and the Longhorns in the thick of the playoff and Big 12 hunt, here are notes from Sark’s Monday press conference:
Ewers update: After missing the last two games for the Longhorns, Quinn Ewers has been upgraded from week-to-week to day-to-day and will be assessed throughout the week.
Outside of Ewers, everyone returned to the practice field including Jalen Catalon, Kitan Crawford, Kelvin Banks, and Christian Jones.
Bounceback practice for Maalik: “I think Maalik came back and had a really good practice [on Monday]. I was very proud of Maalik and the response that he had on the drive in the fourth quarter to get us down to kick that field goal with some really big throws and a really critical fourth-down conversion to JT Sanders.”
“Least sexiest play”: Did you have Sark saying ‘sexiest’ on your bingo card this year?
“One of the hardest plays a quarterback ever has to make is throwing the ball away because you think competitively there’s always a throw I can make. It’s a big challenge to coach. It’s a big challenge for the player to understand the value [in throwing it away].”
Sark called it the “least sexiest play” a QB can make and one that you won’t see be made in practice often because the quarterback is never live in practice or scrimmage and there aren’t many consequences.
However, in a real-game scenario there are consequences and Sark hopes it can be a learning moment for Murphy.
One thing that Sark has wanted Ewers to improve on this season was his ability to make plays with his legs. Don’t expect the same thing from Murphy.
“I don’t know if there’s been a lot of opportunities where Maalik could have used his legs.”
Sark did point out that when Murphy starts to get inaccurate, it begins and ends with his footwork.
“When he gets inaccurate at times, we go right back to his feet.” Sark also touched on Murphy “not drifting in the pocket and stepping up” to fix any accuracy issues.
OL overlooked? - Texas has produced another 1,000-yard rusher with Jonathon Brooks eclipsing the four-digit mark. But has the offensive line been overlooked after so much praise was given to Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson?
“Clearly we had to be doing some things right [last year]. Those guys have really grown together and they’ve taken on some real personality on the team. They’ve got a great deal of confidence in blocking and the runners behind them.”
Sark did say the staff challenged the line this week in practice and after 230 yards on the ground, you can say they responded.
Big humans, big difference: “You have a chance in every game that you go into because you have the ability to run the ball and stop the run and effect the quarterback.”
Sark said a good run defense starts with the ability to recruit the right players and then be able to develop them, mentioning Christian Jones and T’Vonde Sweat as examples.
“They’re different players today than they were a year ago or most notably two years ago.”
Speaking of Sweat, how about the defensive line's performance in that goal-line stand in overtime?
“In my opinion, we have the two most dominant defensive interior linemen in the country and I’m not sure if they’ve gotten a holding penalty called on either of them this year so I’m not sure how that adds up.”
Holding penalties or not, Sark tries to not get caught up in what is called and what isn’t called. He does send in clips of play each week asking for clarification.
Clips? Or the whole game tape...
Final play: How did the Texas defense stand up Kansas State in overtime?
“First of all, it was a really good disguise by Ryan Watts because his alignment, his stance, his body language, his demeanor look like he’s playing man coverage. But there was a subtle communication with Jerrin Thompson about if [the receiver] goes inside, he’s yours and I’m going to take the first man out.”
“Howard raises up to throw to the tight end and there’s Watts sitting there taking the tight end away. He’s got to double-clutch the ball. Murphy has a great rush, here comes Sorrell, he’s on the ground and the game’s over.”
On the TCU hostile environment that awaits the Horns: “We understand we’re built for for the arena and built for the environemnt. We didn’t play very good against them last year and you turn that tape on...I think a lot of guys on our team would like to show what I’m actually capable of.”