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Longhorns Set For a Back-to-Basics Bye Week

After two straight losses, Steve Sarkisian says Texas will focus on fundamentals, techniques this week

Two straight losses and the Texas Longhorns come to a bye week. That gives coach Steve Sarkisian, his players and his coaches 14 days to prepare for their Oct. 30 game with Baylor.

And about a week to figure out where to fish and where to cut bait.

Not with players, mind you. But with the tools the coaching staff is giving to its players, as in the game plan.

Sarkisian wants his players to work hard this week during practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before the coaching staff hits the recruiting trail for a few days. During those practices, part of the focus will be on what’s working and what isn’t.

The things that are working will persist. The things that aren’t working won’t make the cut.

“(During the bye) we really try to hone in on, ‘Okay where are we as a program? What's the state of where we're at today? What are the things that we do well what are the things that we aren't doing so well?,’” Sarkisian said on Monday. “With the things that aren't doing so well, are they worth investing in them for the next, you know, six, seven weeks or are we really just gonna keep focusing on the things that we do well?”

When the losses are mounting, the things a team isn’t doing well usually overshadow what a team is doing well. Up until the second half of the loss to Oklahoma, the Longhorns were on a nice tear where just about everything was working, going back to the blowout win over Rice in Week 3.

Since then? The Longhorns blew a 28-7 first-half lead against the Sooners and eventually lost that game, 55-48. Texas followed that with Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State, 32-24, where the Longhorns defense gave up 19 second-half points.

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But that isn’t to say the offense doesn’t have some blame to shoulder. Their spate of three-and-outs in the second half of both the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State games gave those offenses additional opportunities to score — and left the Longhorn defense on the field too long.

Sarkisian knows that has to be fixed. But it’s not as simple as flipping a switch, which is why the bye week is welcome. Sometimes taking a step back, Sarkisian inferred on Monday, is needed before one can take a step forward.

“The majority of the practices (this week), we’re making sure that we recapture our fundamentals and our techniques, because sometimes you get so scheme-oriented as the season goes on that you start to lose some of those fundamentals and techniques that can help clean up the scheme,” Sarkisian said.

For the Longhorns that means more position-specific periods during practice and more hands-on coaching from the assistants to try and, as Sarkisian put it, recapture those fundamentals and techniques.

Texas won’t ignore getting a head start on Baylor. But, to Sarkisian, without correcting the mistakes of the past two weeks, preparing for Baylor may miss the point of getting his team to correct what ails them.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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