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Texas eliminating ‘Here we go again’ moments that defined past seasons

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Blowouts appear to be a thing of the past for the Longhorns.

West Virginia v Texas Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images

“Ah, here we go again.”

The comment from an unnamed Texas Longhorns player sparked a quick rebuke from senior cornerback Duke Thomas during the first quarter of the 50-7 loss to the TCU Horned Frogs in 2015.

Yet, there the ‘Horns went on the way to an all-too-familiar sight in recent seasons — an extraordinarily lopsided defeat.

A little more than a year later, the baby ‘Horns are growing up and one of the most substantial parts of that progress is developing the mental toughness to recover from adversity.

So even though the 24-20 loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers last weekend was extremely disappointing, the team’s comeback from an early 17-3 deficit was heartening.

“When you're playing against a good football team and you go down 17 to 3 and you kind of hang your head and usually guys say, ‘Okay, here we go again,’ but it wasn't one of those here we go again,” head coach Charlie Strong said after the game.

After going down by two touchdowns at the end of the first quarter, the ‘Horns responded with 10 points before halftime to cut the West Virginia lead to one point.

The situation looked equally dire in the third quarter after the Mountaineers used a 14-play drive to take an 11-point lead and struggling wide receiver John Burt let a pass go through his hands for an interception deep in Texas territory.

On that occasion it was the defense that responded, with safety Dylan Haines recording the first of two interceptions.

Quarterback Shane Buechele’s fumble in the fourth quarter cost Texas three points and put the defense in another precious situation. Strong’s unit held West Virginia to 12 plays for 32 yards on the three following possessions to give the offense three chances to win the game.

The Longhorns had a similar response the week before against the Red Raiders following the 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown. On that play, wide receiver’s Devin Duvernay’s effort to track down Douglas Coleman galvanized his teammates and aided the comeback.

All of that for a team that has more starts among its freshmen and sophomores than any other program in the country.

Overall, the four of the five losses by the Longhorns have been by seven or fewer points after Strong’s teams suffered eight losses by 21 or more points in his first seasons, including last season’s 24-0 road loss to an Iowa State team that went 3-9 and fired its head coach.

As a result, Strong believes that his program is headed in the right direction despite its 5-5 record.

“I really do think we have a really good football team, and I think we've made a ton of progress,” he said.

“You look at it, and not to make excuses, if you look at a freshman quarterback and a freshman center. You look on offense, you have Perk starting as a senior offensive lineman, and then everybody else are all young guys. Then on defense you're looking at Haines as your starter, your only senior back there. So you have a young group and a young group that continues to get better, and as the season goes on, we have gotten better.”

Suggesting that Texas will certainly be a 10-win team in 2017 is still a stretch, but the ‘Horns are demonstrating the ability to compete with every team on the schedule, which stands in sharp contrast to all those “Here we go again” moments of years past.