Texas football coach Steve Sarkisian channeled Nick Saban on Monday, issuing a warning to his Longhorns after their near upset of No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.
“First of all, to quote my old boss, we’ve got to be careful of the rat poison of people telling us how good we are, which is important,” Sarkisian said. “A week ago, everyone told us how bad we were. Now this week, everyone wants to tell us how good we are. We’ve got to be careful to quiet the noise outside of our building and focus on us.”
Alabama, which had won 53 straight nonconference games, had to kick a field goal with 10 seconds left to beat the Longhorns 20-19 in front of a record crowd of 105,213 fans at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Texas was a 21.5-point underdog going into the game, the largest spread the Longhorns had faced at home since the 1978 FBS/FCS split.
“I definitely wanted to address it because, you know, I’m getting the text messages too,” Sarkisian said. “I’m getting the phone calls. ‘Hey, you guys are great, man. You look great,’ this and that. Thanks, but you know, we got more work to do.”
The Longhorns are facing a UTSA team that went 12-2 last season and won the Conference USA title. This is the first time the two system schools have faced each other, with UTSA just starting a football program in 2012. Texas hasn’t lost to a current Group of 5 team since Rice in 1994, although the Owls were Southwest Conference rivals at that point. UTSA is 1-1 after a triple-overtime loss to No. 24 Houston and an OT win at Army this past weekend.
“They have our attention,” Sarkisian said. “That didn’t take long this morning when we turned the tape on for them. They get your attention. We need to be ready to go.”
Sarkisian was specifically impressed with his defense’s performance against Alabama’s offense, including Heisman winner Bryce Young, who was sacked twice and pressured on 12 dropbacks. But again, he said it’s important that the Longhorns not rest on that performance.
“Like I told the team, in particular the defense, but the team in general: We’ve now created a new standard of what’s acceptable, what is our standard of play,” Sarkisian said. “And now we’re held to the standard of defense that we’re playing. We need to meet that standard and exceed that. So now’s not the time to relax; now’s not the time to take a step back. Now’s the time to push even harder to go to a new level.”
The reminders echoed Sarkisian’s comments on Saturday after the game, when he was asked if the perception of Texas football had changed, even after a tough loss.
“I don’t really care,” Sarkisian said. “I care about our team. The perception doesn’t matter. The perception was we were supposed to walk out there and get blown out. So I don’t know. So much for perception.”
There will be intrigue heading into the game on Texas’ quarterback situation. Following injuries to starting quarterback Quinn Ewers and Hudson Card on Saturday, Sarkisian would not reveal who’s taking first-team snaps in practice this week for the Longhorns.
“That’s for me,” he said.
Ewers suffered a clavicle injury on a hit in the first quarter of the Longhorns’ loss to Alabama and went to the locker room and returned in street clothes for the remainder of the game. Sources told ESPN that Ewers will miss at least a month with a sternoclavicular sprain to his left shoulder, which was confirmed via an MRI on Sunday. Card replaced him and finished the game but was hobbled enough by an ankle injury that Sarkisian said he felt he had to adjust his game plan to protect him.
Running back Bijan Robinson said his shoulder was banged up but said after the game he expected to get treatment on it and see how it felt. Starting cornerback D’Shawn Jamison, also fourth all time in Texas history in kick return yards, went out with an ankle injury in the first half and did not return.
“All these guys are day-to-day. I really don’t know,” Sarkisian said. “We’re going to have to monitor them every morning to see where they’re at. The beauty of it for all for these guys, it’s nothing structural, it’s not surgery-driven. It’s not broken. It’s not ligament damage. We’ve just got to monitor them day-to-day and we’ll see who we can get back and when we can get them back.”
Sarkisian confirmed on Monday that redshirt freshman quarterback Charles Wright, who started warming up on the sideline at one point while Card was in the game, would’ve been “next man up” if Card had to come out. Sarkisian would also only say that QB Maalik Murphy, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound freshman who was a four-star recruit and No. 250 in the 2022 ESPN300, is “not healthy.”