Three weeks ago, many people thought Charlie Strong had changed Texas football.
But Saturday’s devastating 41-7 loss against BYU proved Strong hasn’t changed much at all.
Before the new season, the new head coach took away his players’ privilege to throw up the “Hook ’em Horns” sign and, with it, took the Longhorn decal off the helmet, making the team earn those honors back. And many players did seem to have a more focused, stronger attitude after a tough preseason camp.
To top it off, at that time, Strong had already dismissed seven players from the team, proving his commitment to clean up the program.
But on Saturday, it took a few looks to the sideline to make sure former head coach Mack Brown and former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz weren’t back coaching the Longhorns, as Texas gave up 248 rushing yards against the Cougars, a flashback to last year’s embarrassing contest in Provo, Utah.
Strong, who won two national championships as the defensive coordinator at Florida, stressed a revamped Texas defense this year. But Texas, once again, struggled with the fundamentals of tackling, as it missed multiple tackles and failed to wrap up players early. Like last season, BYU junior quarterback Taysom Hill ran for three rushing touchdowns, embarrassing a Texas defender on one of them to start the Cougars’ blowout.
The Longhorns lacked energy and motivation from the start of Saturday’s contest. In his postgame press conference, sadly one of the most fired-up parts of Texas’ night, Strong acknowledged his team wasn’t ready to play.
“I knew during warm-up we weren’t ready to play,” Strong said. “I said, ‘We’re going to get embarrassed if we don’t watch out,’ and that’s what happened.”
While change does take time, it’s difficult to find a reason why Texas has yet to make the adjustments needed to become a prominent football program once again. Since last January, Strong has compiled a new staff, instilled new rules and tried to create new attitudes. But, as of Saturday, this year’s Longhorns looked almost identical to the last three mediocre teams.
Under Shawn Watson, new assistant head coach for offense, the offense, once again, lacked creativity and spark, producing just 82 rushing yards. Even when sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes showed promise, completing his first eight passes and throwing for Texas’ only touchdown, the Longhorns failed to let him open up.
Since he took over at the helm, Strong has emphasized a change in the program, and BYU provided the perfect opportunity to show that. But Texas fans, hoping to witness a return to the national spotlight, have yet to see a renewed football program, generating questions of when that change will actually come.