The Longhorns failed to start this season they way they envisioned in training camp.
They never planned on losing two games early on, especially against a pair of non-conference opponents. Despite this, Texas’ preseason goal of winning the Big 12 remains in play, and the players believe they boast as strong a chance as anyone to clinch the conference title.
“I think anyone can win the Big 12 at this point,” senior left guard Trey Hopkins said. “The Big 12 is such a talented conference that it’s really up to who plays the best at that time. The teams are so close in talent to where guys really are competing with each other [in what] previously would have been a blowout. It really comes down to who plays the best at that time.”
In order to continue working towards this goal, the Longhorns refuse to look any further than their upcoming opponent each week. Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat believes taking things one game at a time allows Texas to make weekly strides, and he expects achieving all of these short-term goals to lead to their overall objective of winning the conference.
“Really just focusing on the little things, short-term goals,” Jeffcoat said. “You don’t want to think about long-term things the whole time. You think about, first, going to Iowa [State] and winning the first quarter. Then, win the second quarter, and so on. You win the game, and you keep going on. If you look too far ahead, you slip up on some of those short-term goals.”
The Longhorns possess the opportunity to put this mindset into action this week, as their Thursday night affair with Iowa State takes place just nine days before their highly-anticipated matchup against Oklahoma. Head coach Mack Brown realizes his players may already be thinking about extracting revenge against a Sooners team that beat them in each of the past three seasons, and he preached the necessity of maintaining focus on the Cyclones rather than looking ahead.
“You can’t skip Iowa State and get to Oklahoma,” Brown said. “That becomes a trap because you have your mind focused on Oklahoma rather than Iowa State. You just got to settle the guys down, tell them, ‘Hey, this is Iowa State we’re playing, not Oklahoma. Get your mind on Iowa State.’ That’s how you handle that.”
The Longhorns got off to a strong start in conference play in their last game, defeating Kansas State, 31-21, in their Big 12 opener. Texas has a leg up with four Big 12 teams already suffering a loss against a conference opponent, and Brown said winning each week is the simplest way to maintain this advantage.
“We’re trying to win the Big 12,” Brown said. “In order to do that, you have to win all the games. We’re just taking it week by week, game by game.”
Senior left tackle Donald Hawkins seconded this, saying the Longhorns must continue to improve while maintaining focus on their overall goal for the season.
“We just remain focused that we can win the Big 12,” Hawkins said. “We just have to be more consistent and have a clear tunnel vision of what our goal is. That’s to win the Big 12.”