Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong said on Saturday night that he thought the team was better than it showed. Assistant head coach for offense Shawn Watson said he thought there was progress. So did junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes.
The problem is that the progress was barely tangible if it was tangible at all in the 38-3 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, leaving fans questioning the direction of the offense and the entire direction of the program under Strong. Now at perhaps the lowest point in the program's recent history -- which is no small feat -- Strong understands that his team has to provide some confidence in the future. Otherwise, he's essentially done at Texas before the end of his second season as head coach.
"There's millions and millions of people involved with this program, and we've got to give them hope, and they need to see progress," Strong said on Monday.
After all the rhetoric about that supposed progress from the spring to the summer and now into the fall, the Texas head coach knows that the team didn't accomplish the planned objectives, especially in being up tempo on offense and everything else that entails, flat-out admitting that none of that happened.
"But there's got to be hope and there's got to be progress," he said. "Yeah, you have all these young players, but still, there's still got to be something in it for us where we're looking to say, hey, maybe they are moving forward, maybe we do see a change, maybe we are getting better, and we didn't see those things."
Other than fewer mistakes on special teams, the lack of turnovers on offense, and the play of freshmen linebacker Malik Jefferson, there certainly wasn't much in the Notre Dame game to suggest progress of any sort. As a result, the next several weeks are critical to the rest of the season and what the results say about the program's forward progress. Or lack thereof.
"Our goal is to win the conference championship," Strong said. "That's what our goal is. We know this, we're coming in with Rice and then it's Cal after that. But we have to go play well and we have to be productive. We need to go play well."