The Longhorns haven’t caught many breaks this season.
In back-to-back weeks, late-game special-teams disasters sunk the Longhorns’ chances of winning. Additionally, a variety of controversial calls negated several big plays. It would be easy for the Longhorns to hang their heads and blame their struggles on bad luck. However, they aren’t succumbing to a negative attitude. Instead, they’re holding themselves accountable and looking for ways to improve.
“You look at it, you look at that game there on Saturday, and we have our chances,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “We don’t have a dropped ball here and then just making a stop, we take the will out of them to [score] … we’ve just got to keep working. [A lucky break] will come some day.”
Strong’s sense of accountability is catching on in the Longhorns’ locker room. The players won’t accept that only questionable calls or special teams cost them the game. They know they could have done more to prevent their bad breaks.
“Obviously a lot of things we can improve on and it’s not like we went out there and played the greatest game we could and almost won,” junior safety Dylan Haines said. “We made a lot of mistakes on defense, struggled on offense at the end of the game, and then special teams is obviously just as important as everything else. We’ve just got to get better.”
The biggest issue may have been Texas’ inability to move the ball and protect its lead. The Longhorns led almost the entire fourth quarter against No. 20 Oklahoma State, but went three-and-out on three of their four drives while holding that lead.
Texas also lost out on potential field goal opportunities in the second half when sacks and an interception on a dropped pass cost the team its field position. As its schedule ramps up, Texas will have to avoid squandering such opportunities.
“It’s just capitalizing,” senior wide receiver Marcus Johnson said. “We could have extended drives, and we could have made plays. We just have to be able to learn and be composed and make those plays happen, so you’re not dealing with losses where the difference is four points.”
Texas will be focusing on its fundamentals as it gears up for No. 4 TCU. The team plagued itself with dropped passes, penalties and assignment mistakes throughout its last two losses. Now, they’ll look to learn from those mistakes and take advantage when opportunities present themselves.
The Longhorns’ spirit remains high despite two heartbreaking losses. After conducting a players-only meeting, the team is on the same page. Jay Norvell, wide receivers coach and offensive play-caller, said that Texas still has the chance to make this year special, and the players have echoed that sentiment.
“We’re a mentally strong group,” senior linebacker Peter Jinkens said. “We bend, but don’t break. We suffered some losses, but there’s still a lot of positivity around this team and a lot of positive energy.”
Texas will need that positive energy Saturday in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs boast a notoriously explosive offense, and the Longhorns may find themselves down quickly. Yet, with a focus on fundamentals, the team may be able to avoid another unlucky heartbreaking loss.
“We’re ready to start playing Texas ball and really just dominate another team,” sophomore defensive end Naashon Hughes said. “We have big opportunities to show who we are as a team … we have to show what we’ve been working on all year.”