There is a decidedly different attitude amongst the Longhorns this week compared to two weeks ago.
Texas was reeling in mid-October coming off of a 21-24 road loss at Kansas State. The burnt orange sat at 3–4 and looked like a team prepared to limp to the season’s finish line.
“I really couldn’t tell you [why it’s happening],” senior defensive lineman Paul Boyette Jr. said following the loss to the Wildcats. “I think what’s real crazy is we allow, like, outside influences to get in our heads … We can’t use any more excuses. We have to get over this hump.”
But two weeks and two wins have turned around the mood in the Longhorn locker room. After knocking off then-No. 8 Baylor in Austin and a high-powered Texas Tech offense in Lubbock, the team is suddenly brimming with optimism.
“It’s just the confidence factor, man,” senior linebacker Tim Cole said. “We knew what’s at stake, and we all just stepped our game up as far as our preparation, how we practice. It correlates to the field.”
The doom and gloom of mid-October has now ceded the way to chest-thumping conviction. And the Longhorns can thank their stud running back for the increase in both wins and morale.
Junior D’Onta Foreman decimated opposing defenses the past two weeks, adding fuel to his Heisman aspirations. His biggest game came last week in a 45-37 victory over the Red Raiders — a 341-yard, three touchdown performance. Whenever the Longhorns need a big play, it can rely on Foreman to deliver the goods.
“[Foreman] wants the ball every play,” freshman quarterback Shane Buechele said. “I say it every week, but he’s done an amazing job. It keeps showing. He keeps having better performances, even when people stack the box against him.”
Foreman must continue his impressive play if the Longhorns plan on defeating No. 16 West Virginia on Saturday. Star cornerback Rasul Douglas leads the Mountaineers’ stout defensive unit with his Big 12-best five interceptions. West Virginia has only allowed one opponent to cross the 30-point threshold this year, while Texas has allowed over 30 points six times.
The Mountaineer defense thrives off its discipline and sound tackling. And while head coach Dana Holgorsen is known for his innovative offenses, he has installed a defense that leads the conference in points allowed per game.
“They’re stingy, they’re good, they’re solid,” Gilbert said. “They graduated a bunch of guys last year, they had a bunch of guys get drafted, and then they replaced them some good older guys. They’re sound on that side of the ball, and they’re very physical.”
Texas has seized control of its season over the past two weeks, and the team is now flying high heading into Saturday’s matchup with one-loss West Virginia. The team looks to keep its momentum going and clinch a bowl game with a win over the Mountaineers this weekend.
“I think winning these two [games] has been a good confidence builder for them,” Strong said. “Now they feel like, ‘Hey, let’s go get the next one, work hard, not take these two for granted.’ We know we still got a lot of work to get done.”