For anyone wondering if the Longhorn players are buying into Strong’s process, look no further than the scene in Texas’ locker room following
Head coach Charlie Strong hardly made it a few steps through the door before a mob of players grabbed him, hoisted him in the air and helped him crowd surf across the locker room.
“I just walked in there, and they grabbed me,” Strong said.
The answer should now be clear. The players were animated and lively after the game, jumping and screaming while raising their coach to the air.
Texas finally earned a win to be excited about under Strong.
Through the first nine games of Strong’s tenure, the Longhorns did little to prove that the much-advertised changes were coming any time soon. They handled their business in the four games they were expected to win and dropped the five they were expected to lose.
Saturday’s game against No. 23 West Virginia was different. The Longhorns looked confident and in control — two words we haven’t been able to use often to describe them this season, especially against ranked foes. They built an early lead and never looked back en route to their first home win over a top-25 school since 2008.
No, the victory didn’t push Texas into contention for a national championship or even a Big 12 title. But it was Strong’s first signature win at Texas — the type of win you can build on.
Had the Longhorns failed to beat the Mountaineers, they would have needed to win each of their final two games to become bowl eligible. It’s not a likely scenario when you consider No. 6 TCU is coming to town on Thanksgiving for the final contest of the season.
Now, Texas stands just one win away from a chance at a bowl game, and, with a game against reeling Oklahoma State up next on the schedule, the Longhorns are in a good position to clinch bowl eligibility. It’s not exactly what they brought Strong in for, but it’s a lot better than anybody expected two weeks ago when they were 3-5 on the season.
Saturday’s game marked more than just a late-season victory, too. It provided a blueprint for how Strong wants to win games: playing stellar defense and pounding the rock.
The Longhorns stifled senior quarterback Clint Trickett, the Big 12’s leading passer, all game long, holding him to just 5.1 yards per attempt, zero touchdowns and a season-low QBR of 23.4.
On offense, sophomore running back Johnathan Gray led the way with 101 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Senior running back Malcolm Brown added 90 yards on the ground. The Longhorns finally ran the ball the way they knew they were capable of, and it led to what was likely the team’s most impressive offensive output of the season.
The victory over West Virginia marked the first signature win in Strong’s short career at Texas. If the Longhorns continue to play the way they did Saturday, it will be the first of many.