AUSTIN — After all the hype Charlie Strong generated over the college football offseason, it seems as if the coach is coming on too strong for the Longhorns.
Texas was defeated by Brigham Young 41-7 in what was the worst home loss in over 15 years. “An embarrassment,” Strong called it. “I knew during warmups we weren’t ready to play. Just the whole demeanor, how they took the field, and how they carried themselves.
“I told them before we went out, I said we’re not ready to play.”
And who’s fault is that? If a team is not ready to play, the blame falls primarily on the coaching staff. Sports pyschologists will tell you that athletes who doubt they are ready to win will rarely win.
Contrast Strong and the Longhorns to the Kansas City Royals, who on July 22 trailed the American League Central leader Detroit by eight games. Then came a team meeting in which 42-year-old retread Raul Ibanez spoke up: “You are on the cusp of greatness. You just need to believe.”
Royals ace James Shields said: “We were on a downhill track. . . . He gave us that confidence we were missing. And it stayed.”
Indeed, the suddenly confident Royals went on a three-week rampage that carried them to the top of the division.
Ever since Strong arrived on the scene, there has been a change of pace in Austin. Players have been held accountable, asked to live by a code of conduct. No doubt discipline and commitment were needed.
Now, it seems like Strong has overstepped. Starting offensive tackles Kennedy Estelle and Desmond Harrison were suspended prior to the BYU game. That makes seven Longhorns suspended or dismissed by Strong.
The banishment of Estelle and Harrison, coupled with the loss of the team’s best offensive lineman, center Dominic Espinosa, to injury, brought Texas to its knees. The line played poorly, as the Longhorns couldn’t move the ball. Texas’ defense stayed on the field far too long, and the fatigue showed in the second half.
Even if all the punishments were justified, there’s no reason to unload on the players who remain.
If the Longhorns have any hope of improving, Strong will need to start building his team back up, instead of constantly tearing it down.
Texas will meet UCLA in Arlington this Saturday at Cowboy Stadium, and it is an important test for him and his already troubled program. The Bruins, led by Heisman-seeking quarterback Brett Hundley, are ranked No. 11 nationally. And the schedule doesn’t get easier after that, with No. 10 Baylor followed by No. 4 Oklahoma.
The Longhorns have no chance if their coach doesn’t believe in them and they don’t believe in themselves.
Click here for Fox Sports’ story on the BYU-Texas game