AUSTIN, Texas - Steve Sarkisian’s first season as Texas coach is very much going from bad to worse.
A five-game losing streak is the worst at Texas in 65 years. And the latest defeat to Kansas — which ended a 56-game road losing streak in the Big 12 for the Jayhawks — came with a season-ending elbow injury for star running back Bijan Robinson.
That means Texas (4-6, 2-6 Big 12) will try to win its final two games against West Virginia and Kansas State just to get bowl eligible without its best player, who had rushed for more than 1,000 yards and had scored 16 touchdowns this season.
Sarkisian on Monday tried to spin some positives out of the losing skid as the season that began as a bid for the program’s first Big 12 title since 2009 has turned into yet another rebuild.
Losing now, Sarkisian suggested, will help him identify problems within the program he needs to fix later.
"If we had found a way to win some of these fourth quarter games, if we had found a way to win this game in overtime, sometimes those issues kind of get masked over with winning. Sometimes winning can kind of cure it all," Sarkisian said. "One of the mentors of mine always told me, ‘Playing bad and winning is sometimes the worst thing that can happen because you don’t address the issues that you have on your team.’"
Sarkisian is 50-41 overall in eight years as a head coach at Texas, Washington and Southern California, and has never won more than nine games in a season.
Sarkisian wasn’t specific about what needs to be fixed, but hinted that everything will be evaluated from the roster to the coaching schemes.
He noted high attrition from the 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes. There also was a leaked video of an assistant coach cursing at players after a loss at Iowa State, and wide receiver Joshua Moore, a former team standout, left midseason after reportedly arguing with coaches in practice. The losing skid includes three blown double-digit leads in the second half.
Texas has only two wins over Power Five conference opponents that fired their coaches midseason (Texas Tech and TCU). After the Kansas loss, Sarkisian was facing questions whether his players had checked out on the season and he responded: "I don’t know. You’d have to ask them. "
Defensive lineman Keondre Coburn said Monday he’s still all in.
"I can’t tell you how people are feeling but we are hungry" to win, Coburn said. "The guys I go on the field with, I know they believe."
Losing a leader like Robinson on the field is another blow.
"He’s a tremendous teammate, a great leader, unbelievable work ethic," Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian defended his coaching staff and said he hasn’t been told by anyone in the Texas administration to make changes before next season.
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski is under a three-year guaranteed contract at $1.7 million per season. Offensive line coach Kyle Flood, special teams coach Jeff Banks and quarterbacks coach A.J. Milwee all came with Sarkisian from Alabama, where they won the national championship last season.
"When I got hired, I give our administration a lot of credit. They gave me the resources to go hire, in my opinion, arguably the best staff in the country," Sarkisian said. "These guys didn’t forget to coach overnight."
Sarkisian, who has a six-year, $34-million guaranteed contract, said he understood the expectations and scrutiny that comes with being the coach at Texas. He replaced Tom Herman, who was fired after four winning seasons and four bowl wins.
"I’m honored, I’m humbled to be the head football coach at the University of Texas. With that is a lot responsibility. That’s OK. I signed up for it," Sarkisian said.