UT Head Coach Charlie Strong during the first quarter at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock Saturday November 5, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT Football

Charlie Strong: Focusing on Kansas and a bowl, not job security or elections

Posted November 14th, 2016

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Charlie Strong’s weekly press conference has come and gone.

The highlights:

1. Kansas may be as close to a sure thing as you can get in the Big 12, but Strong says Texas isn’t taking anything for granted. It’s a road game, and the Longhorns have certainly had their issues away from home, and they need one more win against either 1-9 Kansas or 5-4 TCU to play in a bowl game for the first time since 2014.

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2. Texas may or may not have Malik Jefferson available for Lawrence. The sophomore linebacker is in concussion protocol this week.

3. The 18-Wheeler’s not going anywhere, despite the fact that it wasn’t used against West Virginia even though there were some short-yardage situations in the game.

On to some specific Q&A:

On how close Texas is to being consistent: “You look at Saturday, we had our opportunities, we just didn’t make plays at the right time. We didn’t stop them at the right times. It’s all about being consistent. I felt we played well at Texas Tech, and had the Baylor win, and let this game get away from you. You were playing a really good team, and that’s what it’s all about. Somebody’s gotta step up and make plays.”

Strong took a couple of questions on his job security. He didn’t really want to engage.

On what he has to do to return for 2017: “You just have to talk about this one, go win this football game. We have TCU after that. I’m not going to look down the road.”

On what he would point out to, if he were performing an evaluation of himself, to prove the program’s trending in the right direction: “Just look at how we’re playing. No excuses. I never make excuses. We had our opportunities and didn’t win. You still have a football team that’s still competing, that’s still playing hard, and that’s what you like to happen. We battled back from 17-3, 24-13, so you still had guys competing.”

On whether he thinks UT President Gregory L. Fenves sees that, too: “I think everybody does. Our president will take a long look at it. We still have two games left. We’ll finish out and see where we are at the end of the season.”

And whether he feels this is really a 5-5 team, or better than a 5-5 team: “I’d love to say we had our chances to play better early, and we didn’t, and could be better than 5-5. Even Saturday, we had our early struggles. But we’re 5-5 and probably yeah, two or three games we let get away from us.”

Strong also didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with fallout from last week’s presidential election. Men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart made headlines over the weekend with his comments on Donald Trump’s victory after last Friday night’s season-opening win over Incarnate Word. But today, when he was asked how he’s handled the locker room in regards to players’ thoughts and feelings after the election, Strong took a pass: “It’s just something … you talk about the election. I don’t want to talk about that now, but will talk about it some other time.”

On whether the old road issues may pop up in Lawrence: “There’s no reason we should have a letdown at all. We’re trying to get to a bowl game; we need one win to get there. Our seniors deserve that. I don’t think our guys will have a letdown. We still have to get better ourselves. We need to show we can go on the road and win a football game, then come back home and get ready for the next one.”

On whether anything about Kansas worries him at all: “We can’t just walk in there and feel like we’re going to dominate them. Then the guys get overconfident. You don’t want to walk into someone’s home stadium and feeling like we’re going to dominate that game. You need to go on the road with the right frame of mind, the right attitude. Just go and play. Play at our top potential.”

On whether he’s concerned about the offense’s inability to sustain drives:  “We’ve been playing well on offense. … I have no concerns about our offense. We know what our issues are. We can get them corrected.”

On whether the 18-Wheeler has been shelved: “There were probably one or two times we could’ve gone with it. You’ll see the 18-Wheeler package (again).”

Those were the highlights. Strong also touched on some specific players. Defensive back Holton Hill, who wasn’t seen much at all against West Virginia, was merely a victim of the rotation of DBs and the lack of much nickel packages; he singled out defensive ends Malcolm Roach and Breckyn Hager as potential future stars (“Give me Hager on one side and Roach on one side, and I know something’s going to happen. It may be good, it may be bad, but it’s gonna be a collision and someone’s gonna get hit.”).

Saturday’s game kicks off at 2:30 p.m., on ABC. Texas is 13-2 all-time vs. Kansas, including a 6-2 mark in Lawrence. The Longhorns, who have won 13 straight in the series, haven’t lost to the Jayhawks since 1938. Their last trip to Lawrence was a 23-0 win in 2014.

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