Saturday’s matchup with Baylor wasn’t the first time Charlie Strong’s back has been against the wall.
Texas’ head coach heard the rumors regarding his job security following Texas’ 7-50 loss to TCU in 2015. He faced similar scrutiny later in the year as Texas sat at 4–7 prior to the season finale against the Bears.
In both instances, Strong’s team won a marquee game for its coach. A 24-17 win over undefeated Oklahoma gave Strong his first signature victory on the 40 Acres before he beat the Bears to finish the season on a high note.
Strong faced more insecurity over his job status this week following Texas’ 24-21 loss to Kansas State, a loss that dropped the Longhorns to 3–4 and put a serious dent in their bowl aspirations. But Strong’s team came through when they needed a win once again on Saturday, defeating No. 8 Baylor 35-34.
“I have a good team, and I have a special team,” Strong said. “I have a team that I really care about and a team that really cares about me. It’s not a program that’s in disarray, which many of you think.”
Texas and Baylor traded two touchdowns apiece in the game’s first five and a half minutes, as the Longhorns relied on the Foreman twins to shoulder the offensive load.
Each of the Longhorns’ first nine plays ended with the ball in the hands of either junior running back D’Onta Foreman or junior wide receiver Armanti Foreman. The latter hauled in the Longhorns’ first touchdown of the day, while D’Onta Foreman sprinted into the endzone for a 37-yard touchdown on the team’s second possession.
But the game’s early offensive onslaught quickly gave way to a defensive stalemate. Both teams went nearly 20 minutes without scoring, turning the ball over three times while combining for six punts.
“There was a little frustration for us,” freshman quarterback Shane Buechele said. “But we moved past it. It wasn’t a problem, we just had to focus on everybody doing their job.”
Texas gained a nine-point lead in the second quarter on D’Onta Foreman’s second touchdown run of the day. He continued his spectacular season against Baylor, scampering for 250 yards on 32 carries.
Saturday’s contest marked the tenth consecutive game in which Foreman cracked the 100-yard mark. The Texas City product also passed 1,000 yards for the season, making him the first Longhorn to do so since Jamaal Charles rushed for 1,619 yards in 2007.
“We’ve had a lot of great [running] backs that have came here before me,” Foreman said. “To say that I’ve reached 1,000 yards [in a season] at The University of Texas, I was so proud.”
Baylor held a 34-26 lead with eight minutes to play, but the one-score lead wasn’t enough. Texas pulled within two on a touchdown toss from Buechele to tight end Andrew Beck before taking the lead on a 39-yard field goal from kicker Trent Domingue with under a minute to play.
Texas’ defense held on for one last drive, stopping Baylor senior quarterback Russell and Baylor's attack. When the clock struck zero, Texas had fought back to .500, sitting at 4–4, 2–3 Big 12.
Saturday’s win took Strong off the immediate hot seat, but there’s still no guarantee of future success. Texas followed its win over Oklahoma in 2015 with a 0-24 loss to Iowa State and, this year, lost three consecutive games after topping then-No. 10 Notre Dame and jumping to No. 11 in the polls in September.
Strong insists he isn’t overreacting to one win. Instead, he is focusing on how he can improve his program, one week at a time.
“Those guys just have to battle the noise,” Strong said. “It’s going to be special one of these days when you watch this program really take off.”