The phrase “can’t win for losing” was never more applicable than during the third, fourth and fifth games of the season for the Texas Longhorns. After rare, silly mistakes cost his team two key wins and then an embarrassment in Fort Worth, Charlie Strong rallied the troops in historic fashion just in time for the Red River Shootout that resulted in a 24-17 upset of No. 10 Oklahoma.
Anyone with a brain and novice-level knowledge of football could see the potential of the unusually young Longhorns team full of first-year Strong recruits during the humiliating losing stretch, but as is the case with any sports program, the ignorant fans made their displeasure known by wanting Strong replaced. The fact that senselessness didn’t reach the upper tiers of the athletic department at the University of Texas is a blessing typically not bestowed on programs with rich history like that of the Longhorns.
But because of their endurance and patience, the higher-ups at Texas were rewarded in the second-best possible way a week after a thrashing at the hands of TCU. In college football, the next-best thing to bringing home championships is winning the biggest rivalry game of the year, and they don’t get any bigger than the Red River Shootout.
Is Texas now a national title contender? Absolutely not. Heck, the Horns aren’t even a threat to win the Big 12. But there is now light at the end of the tunnel that shines on greener pastures that are just ahead for a program that isn’t only used to winning, but true excellence year in and year out.
With a truckload of freshmen he recruited growing up right before us as starters every Saturday, Strong has laid the foundation for a new era of Texas football and we saw yet another glimpse of its potential in this huge win over Oklahoma. The difference is now the rest of the world will see it as well, which wasn’t the case in the heartbreakers against Cal and Oklahoma State.
This lesson should be one that all programs going through rebuilding phases should take to heart: Winning isn’t accomplished overnight, and building a winning program takes more than a few games or even just one full season.
The Texas fans who were patient during this process now feel an elation they haven’t in decades. For their perseverance, they’ll soon be rewarded on a much greater level.