Two days after another loss that featured a record setting day for a receiver for the opposing team — this time it was Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook with 10 catches for 232 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-40 win — Texas coach Charlie Strong said all the Longhorns can do is more forward while working to fix the flaws that plague them.
Next up is Iowa State at 6 p.m. Oct. 15 on Longhorn Network.
Strong said he knows of the “rumblings” about his job and that he knows who to talk to even if he doesn’t socialize with them.
He said he and the boosters want the same thing — to see the program make strides — and said he talks to the ones he needs to even if he doesn’t play golf with them.
And he gets the fans’ frustrations, too, and admitted he thought the process would be much faster. But once he arrived in Austin and evaluated the program, he saw there wasn’t a quarterback with experience outside of David Ash, who retired after a concussion during the season opener in 2014.
But he left both groups with hope.
“As badly as we’re getting beat up out there by some people, and despite some of the things that are being said, we’re still getting great players,” he said. “We just have to learn to win some of these close games we’re losing and be more consistent. It’s coming, and everybody in our locker room will tell you the same thing.”
Texas (2-3, 0-2) has seven games left on the schedule beginning with a much-improved ISU (1-6, 0-3) team under the direction of new head coach Matt Campbell. Campbell is energetic, positive and has his players believing in what they’re doing as evidenced by the last two games. During losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State, the Cyclones had leads into the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold on. ISU led the Cowboys 31-14 and the Bears needed a field goal on the last play to pull out a 45-42 victory.
So in a way, both teams playing in Austin have similarities, and both really need this victory for morale. The Cyclones beat the Longhorns 24-0 in 2015.
Strong said OSU won because of their passing game that featured deep balls, which can’t ease anxieties considering the Texas pass defense ranks last in the league. He cautioned fans not to take ISU lightly.
“You can’t take any team lightly and it doesn’t matter who it is, because within this conference everyone’s very competitive, and we just got to make sure that we go out and go compete and make sure we get the support,” he said.
The Cyclones are led by quarterback Joel Lanning, who has completed 79 passes for 1,056 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Running back Mike Warren ranks ninth in the Big 12 with 436 yards on 100 carries. Receiver Allen Lazard has 27 catches for 383 yards and four scores.
Defensively, Kamari Cotton-Moya ranks ninth overall the Big 12 with 36 tackles.
Strong said if he could only concentrate on one phase of his team, it would be to teach the secondary how to defend the long ball better. He noted the OU had six big pass plays for over 200 yards “where it was just guys just losing their coverage.”
“Any time you give up the big plays, it is a mental lapse, and you just can’t lose your coverage, especially when you’re in man coverage,” he said. “And a lot of it has to do when someone breaks down your cushion, you got to know when to turn and flip and make sure that you keep your eyes. Because a lot of times when a ball goes up, a receiver’s eyes get big, because they see the ball coming, and all you got to do is track their eyes. And if you keep your eyes on them, they will let you know when the ball is in play and when you can go make the play on the ball.”
He also said changes to Tyrone Swoopes’ 18-wheeler package, which has become predictable, are coming.
The one individual who has been the Longhorns’ most consistent is running back D’Onta Foreman, who has 87 rushes for 595 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the Big 12 and rank second nationally. He averages 148.8 yards per game. Strong said the runner played 60 snaps against OU.
“As the game goes on, he just gets stronger and stronger,” Strong said. “And we needed yards and I told him, I said, ‘Heck, sometimes we don’t even block it the right way.’ He just finds a way where he can bounce back outside and drop his pads and just run through people. But he is special and he’s really an outstanding player.”