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Poise, composure is the key to hitting the road for Oklahoma State
AUSTIN (KXAN) — With their next two games on the road against ranked opponents, Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian said even after a 24-21 win over Iowa State to snap a three-game winning streak, they have to play – good.
During his press conference on Monday, Sarkisian said the “rat poison” of people telling the team how good they are doesn’t exist, and he was candid with his comments.
“We had a real ‘Come to Jesus’ this morning,” Sarkisian said. “We have to play better.”
The old coaching philosophy is to never be satisfied, even after winning as No. 20 Longhorns over the Cyclones — one that Sarkisian and other players said they didn’t think they would have won last season. The team has matured significantly since last year and, using the way the team responded to a fourth-quarter slump as evidence Saturday, is responding to adversity better.
“It was a good cultural victory for us. It wasn’t easy and there were some self-injuries, but we ran well, defended the run well and won the turnover battle,” Sarkisian said. “Both of the turnovers we got were at critical moments.”
First up for the Longhorns on the road are No. 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys, who are coming off a crushing loss to No. 8 TCU 43-40 in double overtime. It was the Pokes’ first loss of the season, and now the Longhorns have to go to Boone Pickens Stadium and play a very good team that is probably pissed about losing a game like that.
The Longhorns lost their only true road game of the season, 37-34 in overtime to Texas Tech on Sept. 24 in Lubbock, but from what Sarkisian has seen the past two weeks, he feels the team can do better with tense situations.
“Poise and composure are really important on the road,” Sarkisian said. “The audience is not cheering for you, but against you. When bad luck hits you on the road, it doesn’t mean it’s for the next quarter, it could be for the next game and then you have to move on. It takes mental intensity, focus and maturity and playing as a unit.”
Sarkisian emphasized that playing extra football is even more important on the road and said “that’s something we push for.”
“I think our guys did,” Sarkisian said. “Being able to regain control of the game by running the football and having long drives to give the defense a break so they can play better and create turnovers to give the offense a short field.”
The Cowboys offense is led by one of the best players in the country, quarterback Spencer Sanders. Sarkisian called him an “elite competitor,” saying that was the ultimate compliment. Sanders had a rough day through the air against the Horned Frogs, completing just 44 percent of his passes, but added 68 yards rushing and two touchdowns, further proving Sarkisian’s point.
“This guy has fire in him, that’s clear,” Sarkisian said. “It burns inside of him and he will do whatever he has to do to help his team try to win.” Run, throw, motivate, tackle a guy, block him… he’s a winner. He has it. He is an impressive young man and you can tell he is the leader of this team.
During the broadcast of the Cowboys-Horned Frogs game, Sarkisian said he saw something “pretty special” after TCU outlasted Oklahoma State.
“They lost a tough game, but as soon as that game ended and the crowd came onto the field, he had two or three offensive linemen surround him to make sure nobody got to him as they went to the locker room,” Sarkisian said . “To me, that’s a sign that a guy has the respect of his teammates, that they’ll do anything to protect him.”
Jaylen Ford was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week
Longhorns linebacker Jaylen Ford leads the Big 12 in tackles per game with 9.4, even after not having a tackle in the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe, and his stellar performance against Iowa State earned him Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors on a weekly award, the conference announced Monday.
Ford had eight tackles, an interception in the end zone and a fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter to help Texas seal the win over the Cyclones. He had a four-game streak of double-digit tackles starting against Alabama and ending after the West Virginia game and has 66 total tackles. He is tied for No. 22 in NCAA Division I tackles per game.
“He’s a versatile player at the mic position for us,” Sarkisian said. “He plays well against the run and is athletic. He can defend the pass and he’s smart.”
It is Ford’s first weekly conference honor of his career and the second time this season a Longhorn has earned the honor. Defensive back Jahdae Barron won the award after the UTSA game on Sept. 19, where he returned an interception for a touchdown and had six tackles.