Football

After USC demolition, Texas is … 2-1 heading into Big 12 opener against TCU

Longhorns have had big wins over the years but failed to follow up with any consistency; Frogs are 5-1 in series since joining the Big 12

Posted September 16th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Having fun yet? “You see a lot of dudes smiling more and not listening to the outside noise.”
  • Strong couldn't get Texas to win with any level of consistency. Now comes Herman's chance.
  • Texas picked up its 16th commitment for the 2019 class after the USC win.

Texas is … no, don’t say it. Don’t even think it.

The Longhorns had every right to celebrate Saturday night after a 37-14 win over the USC Trojans. A record crowd of 103,507 was packed into Royal-Memorial Stadium. It was certainly a special night fans will talk about for years to come.

The number of recruits on hand was overwhelming. Derrian Brown, a four-star running back from Georgia, went ahead and committed during his official visit. He becomes the 16th member of the 2019 recruiting class.

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Two weeks ago, the Horns weren’t having any fun. Now they are 2-1 and having a ball. “I can’t really explain it,” safety Caden Sterns said. “You see a lot of dudes smiling more and not listening to the outside noise.”

Texas, which received a dozen votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, will open Big 12 play against No. 17 TCU (2-1) this week. If anyone needs a dose of reality, here it is. The Horned Frogs have won five of the past six matchups in this series since Gary Patterson’s club joined the Big 12.

TCU owns Texas right now. The average margin of victory in the Frogs’ five wins was 25.4 points.

Texas coach Tom Herman got this team to pass the first test by winning a big game. Next comes the more bedeviling part: winning with some level of consistency. That’s been a major problem around here for a while now.

The Texas Longhorns prepare for USC Trojans during pre-game in the NCAA college football game, at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, in Austin, Texas Saturday, Sept. 15 , 2018 RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Anyone using that tired three-word cliché this weekend might need a crash course in recent history.

The Longhorns went on a three-game winning streak in late November 2014 to become bowl-eligible. “We’ve come a long way,” then-coach Charlie Strong said after a win at Oklahoma State. Texas got smashed in its final two games and finished 6-7.

In 2015, Texas rose up and bumped off No. 10 Oklahoma, and players threw Strong into the air. “We make snapshot judgments,” ESPN’s Paul Finebaum said the next day, “and I made some about him, and I was clearly wrong.”

Said Strong: “That was the University of Texas. Today was our day.” The Horns finished the year 5-7.

In 2016, Texas stunned No. 10 Notre Dame in the season opener. “Texas is back, folks!” ABC’s Joe Tessitore screamed. He’d probably like a mulligan. That team finished 5-7.

A similar fate — an aversion to consistency — befell Herman in his first season. Last year, after a thorough victory at No. 24 West Virginia, Texas came home and lost to Texas Tech, a team that might have fired its coach if not for that victory.

At least a great majority of the current players weren’t around for all the sporadic starts and stops.

“We’re here for a reason. We just didn’t come here to mess around,” Sterns said. “We believe in what the coaches say. We have no choice, because the older dudes installed the culture before we got here. So we have no choice but to go that path.

“I thank them for that, being hard on us,” he added. “We have no choice but to fall off and just keep working.”

Herman acknowledged that the 34-point barrage that buried the Trojans was full of winning moments. Going into this week, the Horns will need that confidence against a group of Frogs that’ll be angry over a 40-28 loss to Ohio State.

The offense tallied almost 400 yards. The defense held USC’s rushing attack to minus-5 yards and registered three sacks. Freshman kicker Cameron Dicker hit three field goals. Sterns blocked a field goal, and Anthony Wheeler took it the other way for a score.

It was the most complete, most impressive win in Herman’s 16-game tenure at UT.

“Psychologically, I think definitely that this was a big step for them,” the coach said, “to realize what they are capable of, not just talk about it and be close to it, but actually realize it and go execute it at a very, very high level against a really good opponent.”

Praise and adulation are things this program hasn’t handled all that well, though.

Nobody will be crowing about USC being a signature win if Texas struggles and gets embarrassed at home by TCU.

Fox Sports put together a fun video showing superfan Matthew McConaughey enjoying some highlights. The video ended with those three words in big capital letters.

Texas is … 2-1 going into this week’s Big 12 opener. Nothing more, nothing less.

“We’ve got to keep building, keep building,” Sterns said. “A snowball effect for the better. This team has not even reached its full potential yet. We’ve just got to keep working hard, head down, no outside noise and just keep working.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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