What we saw in Lubbock from the Longhorns on Saturday was a team finally backing up its words about playing for its head coach. No one is going to brag about a win over a below-average Texas Tech team, but this one definitely had a different feel to it.
Texas is notoriously bad on the road under Charlie Strong, but it found a way to walk out with a win in this one. It was clear Strong had a solid game plan entering the game, and it was executed about as good as you can do it against the top offense in the country. Both points I just made there are pretty shocking when you’ve watched this team play this year.
This game marks one of the first times I’ve seen progression from this team all year. Even with the win over Baylor last week, it didn’t feel like the team took a huge step forward because of all the mistakes. There were still plenty of mistakes made against Tech, but the difference is the players finally overcame them in a venue other than DKR.
Winning on the road is a sign of progress for Strong. The big money donors are looking for any reason to get rid of Strong at the end of the season, but he’s helped his case tremendously over the last two weeks.
Still, this team is far from perfect. There were so many frustrating and inexplicable calls and mistakes against Tech that just had me scratching my head. In fact, I thought probably a handful of times throughout the game that this was the moment that would turn the game and they would blow it. But it didn’t happen.
I wrote previously that Texas fans need to accept the performance they will get from a Charlie Strong coached football team. This was not one of those games. It would be nice to have to accept performances like the one against Tech, but the team isn’t quite there yet.
Now that there is some positive mojo in and around the program, it seems like the wolves are backing off of Strong a little bit. We are at a point now where he could legitimately save his job. That seemed like a completely impossible scenario just two weeks ago. With home games against West Virginia and TCU, and a road game against Kansas, left on the schedule, Strong has a shot to make a big statement and silence the wolves completely.
The Longhorns play well at home, so they have the advantage against the two toughest opponents remaining on their schedule. Winning two out of the last three games isn’t unreasonable, but the fire the team has played with recently can’t go away.
And speaking of fire, this seems like a good time to mention the Heisman-worthy performances that D’Onta Foreman has been putting up virtually all season. He rushed for 341 yards against Texas Tech to make him the leading rusher in the NCAA this year (and he even missed one game). The Longhorns may save Strong’s job just by jumping on Foreman’s back and letting him take the game over every week.
However, this team still has a lot of growing up to do, from the players to the coaches. At this point in the season, the mistakes that are happening will likely continue. But the progress we’ve seen of being able to fight through those mistakes and come away with a win is pretty impressive considering the circumstances.
Now shouldn’t be a time to focus on correcting the mistakes and poor play calling at times. These last three games are all about continuing to build confidence in the young Longhorns. Just imagine how good the players will feel if their play on the field was a direct result in the decision to retain Strong for at least another year.
Taking a confident group into the offseason will help the maturation process and give the team a chance to fix mistakes that are easily correctable, for the most part.
The Longhorns have played with a newfound fire since the wolves have been out calling for Strong’s job. Now it’s time to see how they respond when people tell them how good they are. It hasn’t worked out well in the past, but the signs of progress are certainly encouraging for Texas fans.
E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.