Texas is Charlie-Strong

Longhorns post-game celebration shows Strong has won over players. Are Texas alums next?

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Charlie Strong is lifted on the shoulders of his Texas players following the Longhorns 50-47 win over Notre Dame in 2OT Sunday night.   Photo by Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports

By Ryan Decker  

Charlie Strong wasn’t very well received when he was named the next head coach of the historic Texas Longhorns football program two years ago.

For one reason or another – and I think we all know at least one of the reasons, sadly – he wasn’t the “ideal candidate” for taking over the program from Mack Brown.

Maybe it was because he had never been a full-time head coach at a major football power. Sure he was 22 games over .500 during his time as the head coach of Louisville, including improving his team’s record each season, but that wasn’t important.

Strong was set up to fail at Texas.

His seat was hot before he even sat on it.

Benefactors didn’t like or want him. Although Coach Brown had some of the best recruiting classes in the nation in the years leading up to his final season, the results on the field didn’t stack up to the hype of the players.

It’s not that the “We’re Texas” shtick had lost some of its weight in high school players’ houses prior to signing day, it had lost some of its weight on the field. The Big 12 conference as a whole had revamped and looked better than ever; had more talent than ever.

In Strong’s first season with the Longhorns, Texas went 6-6 in the regular season before losing 31-7 to Arkansas in the bowl game. Six wins being two fewer than Brown had his final season the year before.

In 2014, Strong and company lost games against Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State and TCU, though they did manage to win the five other games they played against Big 12 opponents.

However, Texas was 1-2 against in-state opponents.

The following year, 2015, Texas’ record once again was worse than the year before, as Strong and his team only won five games, missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2010. Prior to that, the Longhorns had appeared in a bowl game every season since 1997 – the year before Brown took over.

It all began with a 38-3 beating by Notre Dame. (keep that outcome in mind) That signified how the season would go, for the most part, for Texas.

Strong’s team lost games against Oklahoma State, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia and Texas Tech. Once again, 1-2 versus teams also located in the state of Texas.

Once again, one win and one loss against Oklahoma teams.

The Oklahoma team the Sooners knocked off in 2015, though, – the Sooners – was by far the most important win of the five.

The 24-17 victory not only was another exciting chapter in the long history of the Red River Rivalry, but it likely saved Strong’s job.

Not only that, but it won over his team, and they reacted how any reeling 2-5 team should react after a big victory, by lifting their head coach up high.

Fast forward to Sunday night. Part 2 of the latest installment of ND/Texas, this time played in Austin.

Texas, unranked, led big nearing the midway point in the game, but then the 10th-ranked Irish started to come back. Notre Dame wound up forcing overtime.

Despite Strong giving the start at quarterback to the true freshman Shane Beuchele, he had the wherewithal to put in the veteran Tyrone Swoopes in behind center in overtime. Naturally it was Swoopes who dove in for the final score.

Strong and Texas knocked off the Irish.

Avenging last season’s loss to the Irish, and starting 2016 by upsetting a Top-10 team at home, once again it was time for celebration by the Longhorn players. Once again, they lifted their head coach.

Texas players obviously like their head coach. Why else would they lift him twice within one calendar year?

Texas fans should like their head coach. He’s what the program needed, and, honestly, what’s not to like about the guy? How much he wants to win? How much he wants his players to succeed?

Could Texas alums and backers like Strong? Is that possible?

The answer should be yes.

After the way the Longhorns played Sunday night, there’s not a game on the schedule that they should be counted out of. And if he beats Oklahoma on October 8, he will have checked off the two biggest boxes on the Longhorns schedule before they’d reach the midway part of the season.

The answer probably won’t be yes, though. Not fully anyways.

Because even though the Longhorns stand a fighting chance, at least on paper, against anyone they will face this season, chances are they will lose a game or two. Those will be the games benefactors will focus on.

Not the positives, but the negatives.

The fans though, they should just be excited it looks like their football program could be headed back to near the top of the Big 12.

Leading the way, of course, is Charlie Strong.

 

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