How a close loss to Alabama is inspiring Steve Sarkisian and Texas football for the future
How will the close loss to Alabama affect Steve Sarkisian and Texas football in the future?
Any celebration of moral victory for the Texas Longhorns in the past was met in Austin with a “bless your heart” remark, the type of contempt typically reserved for a jerk. newly arrived Californian with a hot summer. complaints.
Not in Texas, the fourth-winningest program in college football history — and not in a moral way.
But a funny thing happened Saturday, after a 20-19 loss to No. Game 14 of the Steve Sarkisian era featured No. 1 Alabama. Burnt orange loyalists were imbued with a rare gift: perspective.
Consider that the Longhorns lost quarterback Quinn Evers in the first quarter, an injury that upset Longhorns fans after the injury to quarterback Colt McCoy on the sixth play of the 2010 public title game against the Red Tide. What images did it evoke? Consider that Hudson-Card, who came to Evers’ aid, rolled on a bad ankle, so much so that Sarkisian said the game plan had to be changed to protect him. Consider Alabama running back Bajon Robinson for most of the day.
And yet, in the end, the Longhorns went down to the wire against Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, perhaps thwarted only by what Sarkisian called Bryce Young’s “Houdini act.” Last year’s Heisman winner escaped a sack when he got under a blitzing defensive back and ran 20 yards to the Longhorns’ 17-yard line to set up the game-winning field goal four plays later with the clock running. I had 10 seconds left.
The result was a loss, and no one was happy about it. It felt like Texas was the best team on the field Saturday and still came up short. But there weren’t too many heads hanging in burnt orange — players or fans.
A large majority of Darrell’s record crowd of 105,213 packed Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium after the players sang “The Eyes of Texas.” He also deserved to take the bow. DKR was rude, defying an old reputation that Texas mobs don’t get rude. Alabama fans got a share of the credit for Alabama’s 15 penalties for 100 yards, the most of Saban’s Tide tenure.
A Texas team that closed as a 21.5-point underdog the largest point spread for a game in Austin since the 1978 FBS/FCS split —became the second team ever coached by Saban. lost by one point. Arkansas team (Arkansas was the first team in 2014 with a 14-13 loss).
Could this be the rare loss that gives the team confidence and a springboard to move forward?
Sarkisian proclaimed, “This is the best group in the nation.” “Strangely, we feel better about where we are with our program,” Sarkisian said following his first season, a dreadful 5-7 performance. After the season began with a jaw-dropping victory over Oklahoma and was followed by a shocking home loss to Kansas, there were plenty of questions about whether Texas was ready for the move. SEC
However, Saban was also a believer that day.
It’s like playing an SEC game outside, he remarked. If they were now employed by the SEC, they “would probably be at the top of the association.”
Chalk it up to coach speak, perhaps, of a coach praising a former assistant. But Sarkisian spent three seasons in Tuscaloosa, two as Saban’s offensive coordinator, and said he thought the performance was a preview of the Texas SEC game.
“That’s what it looks like,” Sarkisian said. “You know, a lot of big people and a lot of rapid people spewed it. And there’s a need for that.”
Instead of using those big men, the much-maligned Texas defense ranked 99th nationally in rushing last season. The Longhorns’ defensive line hounded Alabama’s offensive line all day. Alabama running backs carried the ball 17 times for just 123 yards, 81 of those coming on a touchdown run by Jace McClellan in the first quarter. After McClellan’s score, Alabama punted on six straight drives and didn’t score again until a flurry of fourth quarters.
“Throughout the game, our big guys were giving their big guys hell,” linebacker DeMarvin Overton said.
Robinson, the centerpiece of Alabama’s defense, had 57 yards on 21 carries, averaging just 2.7 yards per rush, but added a career-high 73 receiving yards and said he has a new record in Austin. felt mentality.
“I know we didn’t win, but it just showed in people’s eyes,” Robinson said. We’re not a team that gives up easily. We’re going to fight the whole game, the whole season. And we’re willing to face off against anyone. “
Still, the Longhorns lost their next five games after losing a double-digit lead to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl last season, the longest losing streak at Texas since 1956.
Fifth-year senior defensive lineman Kevandre Coburn draws a lot of attention on and off the field at 6-foot-3 and 344 pounds and is one of the Longhorns’ best coat machines. Having started 34 games for the Longhorns in his career, he can see the big picture.
He added that he hadn’t seen a team work so hard the entire game in the five years he’s been here. “We performed our parts. I’m disappointed that we didn’t complete the task, but there’s a lot we can look forward to.”
Anthony Cook, a senior defensive back, agreed with Coburn.
“We learned something about ourselves,” he said. “We’re going to use this as a springboard, a catapult for the rest of the season.”
The first step will be on Saturday when a tough, motivated UTSA team comes to Austin to test the Longhorns’ mettle.
Coburn insisted that was next on his list, promising that he would zero in on the one-week mantra his coaches put into him. But he still couldn’t help but think big after helping push around an Alabama team that suddenly didn’t look like world beaters.
He cited another team that lost to Alabama last season and how it was able to avenge that loss.
After the game, Coburn remarked, “I preached to the boys that it’s just a game.” “Georgia won the national championship with one loss.” We’ve got a chance to see those guys again.
“We just have to fix everything.”
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