After an offseason filled with hype, Texas made a statement in its season opener against Notre Dame. Unfortunately for head coach Charlie Strong, that statement came on the wrong end of the spectrum.
The Longhorns were largely dysfunctional in the 38-3 rout against No. 11 Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. From going three-and-out in eight different series to surrendering multiple big plays — including a backbreaking 66-yard touchdown — Texas simply failed to execute.
While the season opener spelled disaster, Strong can’t afford to start panicking. With 11 games still remaining on the schedule, the focus becomes figuring out what went wrong and avoiding the same miscues going forward. Strong said he won’t let the loss haunt him emotionally, and he will use it to shape his direction going forward.
“The outcome on Saturday is not what we expected and is not acceptable,” Strong said. “This week, we’re going to take our time. It’s something you want to restart the season and push that button. … It’s all about corrections and taking our time with plays that didn’t work and how we can get better and how we can improve.”
The Longhorns will attempt to learn from the mistakes that cost them in South Bend, but they aren’t letting the disappointing performance affect their confidence. Strong said that the team’s larger goal of winning the conference hasn’t changed and that he thinks the players won’t back down because of one loss. Several players admit that the loss still burns. But Strong’s sentiments still come through in their preparation for the future.
“You tell everybody just get ready for next week,” senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson said. “We’ve got a lot of football left. We’ve still got 11 more games, and we’ve just got to just come together as a unit, be tight as a family and just get ready for the next game.”
So far, the Longhorns have been able to come together and take responsibility. The players consistently preach confidence in the coaching staff’s decision making, both personnel-wise and in the staff’s play-calling. More importantly, the players refuse to single out their teammates for their struggles.
“Everybody is going to say ‘this is my fault,’” sophomore tight end Andrew Beck said. “If you’re trying to put the blame on one person, you’re looking in the wrong place.”
As Texas gears up for its home opener against Rice, the team will need to focus on execution. The players know that having confidence and executing in practice isn’t enough. To make plays and win football games, they must step up and translate when the time comes.
Despite the Longhorns’ high expectations heading into the season, they failed to show anything that lived up to the hype. However, with solid execution going forward, Texas can reset its year and live up to its lofty expectations.
“Things can always get fixed,” Strong said. “It’s about us just going back to work and just rolling up your sleeves and digging in.”