Athletic director Mike Perrin gave head coach Charlie Strong a proud hug on Joe Jamail Field Saturday evening. Both displayed Texas-sized grins as they walked off the turf at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Strong’s team had just knocked off No. 8 Baylor in thrilling fashion. Perrin chimed in with the students in the south end zone chanting, “Charlie! Charlie!” as the embattled Strong held his horns high walking up the tunnel.
Strong has seen this act before. It happened in week one when Texas sent then-No. 10 Notre Dame packing after a dramatic double overtime victory. The fans chanted his name again when Texas trounced UTEP in week two by 34 points.
What happened between the Longhorns’ 2–0 start and their unexpected upset of Baylor has, however, sparked anything but elation in Longhorn nation. Texas entered the tilt with Baylor with only one win in its last five games, showing no signs of a potential upset over the Bears. But Strong still believed.
“It’s not a program that is going backwards,” Strong said. “It’s a program that’s headed forward, and it’s a program that is going to be a special.”
Strong’s statement holds true, to an extent. His team has looked special at times — but only at home. All four of his squad’s victories have come at home, while playing on the road has been a different issue throughout Strong’s tenure in Austin. Texas holds a 1–7 record in true road games in the last two seasons.
“We have to play better on the road,” Strong said. “We just haven’t — that’s where our Achilles’ heel is right now, just playing well on the road.”
Road woes aside, Texas has collected wins of this magnitude before, only to later fall flat on its face and fail to capitalize on the momentum of derailing a highly-ranked opponent.
Texas stunned No. 10 Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown last year. Then the Longhorns finished the remainder of the season 3–3, failing to become bowl eligible.
And the win over then-No. 10 Notre Dame this season lost value as the season progressed. The win shot Texas up to No. 11 in the AP Top 25 Poll, but the Irish now boast a lousy 3–5 record. Coupling that with Texas’ mediocre 4–4 mark is akin to deflating a child’s balloon moments after airing it up.
But Texas found a way to come around and obtain a potentially season-altering win. The task now is to build on it and to avoid the cataclysmic setbacks that have plagued the Longhorns in the past. Junior running back D’Onta Foreman said the team’s head is in the right place to do so.
“We just always believe,” Foreman said. “We never let outside noise interrupt what we want to do … things haven’t been going our way for the most part, and we just have to keep fighting.”
Texas must carry its fundamentals and sound play on the road to keep Longhorn nation believing, too. The team has infused fans with optimism before, only to let them down with lackluster performances away from home.
But junior tight end Andrew Beck said it’s about time Texas silences the doubters and secures a much needed win outside the confines of Austin.
“We haven’t been great on the road so far,” Beck said. “But we’ve matured as a team as the season has rolled on that I think guys understand now that we have to be able to carry this onto the road. We’ve been pretty good at home, but obviously a road win is due for us.”