The shocking notification arrived in a variety of forms for the Texas Longhorns football program on Tuesday afternoon. For some, it came through social media, others through text from friends, and some from teammates, but it sent a jolt through the team that was as thrilling as it was nerve-racking.
In a movement that paralleled players sending Charlie Strong soaring toward the Austin sky after the Longhorns toppled Notre Dame, the AP poll announced the Longhorns are now the 11th-ranked team in the nation this week. Just a few days from being unranked, the ‘Horns went on a meteoric rise in the recently-released media poll, marking the first time Texas has been ranked in the AP poll under Strong.
Accompanied by hours of television appearances and headlines, it seems everyone believes the Texas program has officially jumped back into national prominence where it belongs. Heck, even Rolling Stone Magazine jumped in on the fun and wants to anoint the ‘Horns already too.
However, Charlie Strong and the Texas coaches know it’s not that simple. One win does not a season make, and the head coach wants, and more importantly needs, his team to move on from their monumental victory and focus on their next game.
“One game does not make a season. We know that we're still rebuilding,” Strong said. “We want to make sure that each and every week we get better and better, and make sure that guys go play up to their ability and go play their very best.”
That’s not to say Strong isn’t proud of what his team accomplished, something he has reiterated during multiple interviews this week, but he feels there’s a lot of room for improvement for this team.
“After the game in the locker room I said, ‘I think last year we would have lost this game,’” the Texas head coach said. “I don't know if we would have had enough left in us to go continuing to battle where we didn't lose our confidence. But there were a lot of things we needed to get corrected.”
Specifically, Strong feels his young team needs to a better job of not committing as many penalties. On Sunday, the ‘Horns tallied up 11 penalties for 104 yards, including a chop-block penalty that stalled their final drive before overtime. The coaching staff believes these are mistakes that can be corrected as this team progresses.
“Some of them that were just foolish penalties,” Strong said. “You can't get personal foul penalties. You can't get block in the back penalties. You can't get the holding penalties, the chop penalties to stop the drive, and there are things we can get corrected this week.”
On defense, coordinator Vance Bedford feels his unit can continue to make strides this week as well. His defense stopped the Irish at some pivotal moments in the game, but still struggled containing an efficient offense behind Deshone Kizer.
Against Notre Dame, Bedford’s defense gave up 444 yards and allowed the Irish to convert on 7-of-17 third downs. While this year’s defense appears stronger than the one that traveled to South Bend in 2015, Bedford wants his team to stay focused, improve, and not dismiss a tough UTEP squad.
“You've got guys buying into all the hype. Yesterday people said you were nobody, now all of a sudden you're somebody. Don't believe that. We won one football game. That doesn't mean a whole lot,” Bedford said. “We've got to get ready for UTEP. They just had a running back (Aaron Jones) rush the ball 31 times for 249 yards. That's all I know. That's our focus right now.”
Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, who dazzled with his new up-tempo scheme on Sunday, believes the Longhorns need to continue to build and execute better as well.
“Our focus is on us and getting us better. We're going to take it one week at a time,” Gilbert said. “Our opponent this week is UTEP. But our extreme focus is on us and us improving and getting better fundamentally, technique wise, and everything we want to execute and get accomplished.”
As for the players, they want to continue to taste victory like they did this past weekend. Perhaps no one better knows the lows of defeat and highs of victory than Tyrone Swoopes, who has played the role of scapegoat and now golden boy in his short tenure in the burnt orange and white.
While Sunday was particularly sweet for the senior quarterback, he wants his team to prepare each week and not take anything for granted.
“Yeah, I mean, we enjoyed it. It's always fun to get a big win like that at home. So we definitely enjoyed it. But we know that one game doesn't make a season,” Swoopes said. “So we're looking forward to next week and the rest of the season and trying to do something great.”
If the Longhorns expect to hold onto its top national rank, one thing is for certain — it can’t dwell on the past for too long. Good thing, the coaches and players seem to be on the same page. With a new, bold confidence and a focused attitude, Texas thinks it can reach new heights.
“I'm excited for the team that we went out there and won the game,” sophomore wide receiver John Burt said. “But one thing I was telling them in the locker room, that's just one. We still have 11, 12 more games to play.”