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Toasting Texas toast

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — I get it. You don’t want to read about Texas.

In fact, you’ll find no argument here.

In Morgantown, Texas is so disliked that they ought to change the name of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant to simply The Roadhouse.

Mountaineer football fans don’t want Texas Toast. Instead, they want to toast Texas ... and not like raising a mug at the local brewery and saying “Here’s to the Texas Longhorns.” They want to toast them like putting them in a toaster and scorching them.

“Hook ‘em Horns” is considered such a bad phrase that it isn’t used in mixed company.

But today you’re going to have to read about Texas, because as it seems to happen every three or four years, the Longhorns are bringing in another savior for their failing program. First was Mack Brown, then Charlie Strong, then Tom Herman.

Now, at Big 12 Football Media Day in Dallas, they have introduced Steve Sarkisian as the man who is going to put clean polish on the program and raise Vince Young and Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell from the dead.

If they introduced him to the media there, might as well introduce him to the fans here. You know what they say, “know thy enemy.”

Sarkisian is an interesting dude. He’s had his chances. He was a head coach at Washington, at USC, an NFL offensive coordinator and the last couple of years working under Nick Saban — one of us — at Alabama and earning a national championship ring with an inventive, high-octane offense.

But you wonder, couldn’t you have coached that group of players to a championship?

So you look at Sarkisian and a lot comes to mind. ESPN-plus on Wednesday wondered how the coach hired by Texas compared with the coach that had his first head coaching job at Washington.

“You have to remember, when I took the job at Washington, which is crazy to think. Coaching my first game I was 34 on ESPN against LSU. Holy cow, this is like a big deal,” he said.

“Now I’m 47. All that experience ... the experience of being a head coach, the experience of being a coordinator in the NFL and coaching in the playoffs, the experience of coaching under Coach Saban at Alabama.

“I’m more versed. I think I know me better. I’m more consistent. Ultimately that lends itself to us being a more consistent football team on a daily basis in the way we approach what we are trying to get accomplished. I’m just in a better space, frankly.”

It’s hard not to learn something under Saban, who may just be proving himself to be the greatest college coach ever ... with due apologies to Knute Rockne, Bud Wilkinson, Bear Bryant and anyone else you might want to interject into the conversation.

So, what did he learn in Tuscaloosa other than to have the fastest, most athletic and best players on the field?

“The biggest thing with Coach Saban is there is a level of discipline in that program,” Sarkisian explained. “The first thing people think is discipline on the field, but that discipline at Alabama starts off the field and it starts with Coach Saban. He has a disciplined approach to the way he goes about his business. That permeates to the staff and to the team and how they play on game day.

“We’re trying put that into our program, but on the flip side of that I spent seven years coaching with Pete Carroll as well. It’s like the other side of the spectrum. Not that Coach Carroll isn’t disciplined, but there’s more of an engagement with the player approach. I’m probably somewhere in the middle of those two guys.

“Coach Saban and Coach Carroll had to figure out who they were in the second half of their careers and they both took off. I believe that’s where I’m at. I’ve got a good rapport with our players, but I understand the level of discipline that’s necessary to be successful year in and year out.”

Saban and Carroll aren’t bad role models, but Sarkisian is really his own man, an inventive coach on the offensive side of the ball.

“I try to watch football. I’m a fan of college football. If we’re not playing and I’m not practicing or game-planning, I’ve got a game on. Sometimes someone will do something on TV or on a tape where I don’t necessarily want to copy that play but it creates an idea for something that maybe could fit us in a different way,” he said.

“I always try to think, whatever we do, people are trying to figure it out, so how do we stay ahead ... so, what’s the next thing off what we were doing. Not everything’s perfect. We fail as much as we succeed, but we have to learn from those failures. We have a staff that puts up with my crazy ideas at times and lets me try it so we can see what it looks like.”

All of this is well and good, but the folks in Austin are in no mood to be patient. Sarkisian inherits a good bit of talent and they expect immediate results.

The question is, what is being successful for Sarkisian at Texas?

“Naturally everyone wants me to put a figure on it,” he told ESPN-plus. “For me it’s are we playing with the commitment, determination, accountability and mental toughness needed week in and week out regardless of the opponent to where the product we put on the field allows us to win football games.

“If we do that, we will put ourselves in position. Ultimately, it will come down to those two, three, four plays — it always does. If we execute at the most critical moments, at the most stressful times, remain calm, trust the calls, trust the man next to us to do the job ... if we do that we have a successful season.

“I don’t know what that number will look like. Everyone is buying into that. There’s expectations at the University of Texas. We’re here to win championships. That’s why I took the job. But set that aside. Now we have to chase greatness every day, to close the gap on perfection and what that looks like.

“Ultimately, when the time comes, we will compete for championships and we will do it in a way we are comfortable in that arena.”

So now you know your enemy. There’s a lot more for you to learn about him than he has to learn about you .... just don’t come into Mountaineer Field flashing that “Hook ‘em Horns” sign.