Thursday, September 12, 2013
Planning for success: Texas Longhorns
By Max Olson
AUSTIN, Texas -- BYU's blowout win over Texas last weekend gave us plenty of remarkable stats to chew on. Here's one that isn't getting talked up much this week.
Two. That's the number of games the Longhorns have played so far this season. Doesn't seem like it, sure, but trust me. Just two.
All week long, the tenor has been quite different. It's full of the voices of people who have decided this Texas team is doomed to fall apart. The noise is getting louder and louder.
Months from now, this skepticism might seem prescient. Or it could end up being proven dead wrong. The guys in charge of deciding when this season ends aren't laughing.
Quandre Diggs is among the Longhorns insisting there's plenty of time to salvage the season.
"It was the second game. It's not over," Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "The season is not over. We're on to the third one. We can't let one loss turn into two."
That last line has bee the mantra of the week for Texas players, ever since the end of the game Saturday. Jaxon Shipley even repeated it three times in a six-minute interview Tuesday.
This is a team living one week at a time now, but losing to BYU hasn't changed the Longhorns' goals for 2013. They're still 0-0 in Big 12 play. The time left to improve is measured in months, not minutes.
Even as he spoke solemnly to his players in the locker room after the BYU loss, even with all the disappointment in his voice, coach Mack Brown still told his team this: "Our goal was to win a conference championship. We can get a lot better."
Texas has started the season 1-1 two other times in the past decade: 2003 and 2006. The team finished 10-3 on both occasions.
It seems so much more serious this time, of course, because the firing of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has many believing the move is just the beginning of the end, mere deck chairs being rearranged on a sinking Titanic.
When Diaz was first confronted in August by questions about how he can fix the defense, he said it's as simple as this: It's a player development job. Even if he's not the one doing it now, that still rings true. Players have to keep developing, and they have to find a way to fix the on-field product.
"It's week two. We've got 11 more weeks left to go," Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "All we can do now is go up, right? That's where our head is. We're ready to continue to improve on all the fundamental stuff, the basics of football and going out and executing."
Longhorns players insist their goals have not changed. They expect to be in the race for a Big 12 title when it's all said and done. They won't say it, but the league is still wide-open enough that making a run at that trophy in 2013 isn't impossible.
But clinging to the memories of a truly awful performance in Provo is pointless. There's no time to stop and get angry about losing Diaz. They're putting their heads down and getting back to work, giving Ole Miss their undivided attention.
"I think everybody is in a great place," cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "Of course we're still disappointed. But you've got to move on."
Diggs said he's staying off Twitter and doing his best to block out the negativity and distractions. The players are closing ranks and developing a bunker mentality. They don't care what's being said. They care about Ole Miss.
There's a lot of football left to be played. In fact, Hicks couldn't help but laugh when reminded Monday that Texas hasn't played a Big 12 game yet.
There's still plenty he wants to prove, no matter the public opinion of his team and his coach.
"We're still at the point in the season where ... it's week two," Hicks said. "You know what I'm saying? It's still so early, and so many different things can happen in college football. We've seen that time and time again, that things change throughout the year. It's early. We've got a bad taste in our mouth, and it's necessary that we get that taste out."