The Texas Longhorns are in unfamiliar territory.
After a disappointing loss to open the season against Maryland, Texas sits at 4-1 for the first time since 2012. In his second year as the head coach, head coach Tom Herman thinks the formula for success is simple, but not easy.
“Belief. Trust. Our players trust us and we trust them,” Herman said on Monday during his weekly press conference. “It’s the players and it’s the players trusting each other, trusting us and believing and then walking that belief, not just talking about it.”
The waters get even more unfamiliar for No. 19-ranked Texas as it heads down to the Cotton Bowl to face the No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners. It’s been six years since the Longhorns went into the Red River Showdown as a ranked team.
The already high-pressure environment of the rivalry game takes on a heightened level of pressure with ESPN’s College GameDay in attendance, and the hype spreading around the matchup. For the Longhorns, however, it’s business as-usual during their preparation.
“I told our guys yesterday, you know, they would look at me like I was crazy if I walked in that team meeting on Sunday and said, ‘Hey, guys, we’ve won four straight games; but because we’re playing in the Red River Showdown, we’re going to do things in practice completely different than we’ve ever done them,’” Herman said.
“We’re going to prepare the way that we know how to prepare, the way that we know works, but we’re also going to enjoy the week, enjoy the pageantry and the passion that’s involved in this rivalry.”
Keeping a focus on what is directly ahead of them has been the key to success for Texas in 2018, not just week to week with the “1-0” mantra, but on any given down. In the eyes of the coaching staff, that focus will sustain this team no matter what the obstacle put ahead of them.
“It’s a good thing that we get so caught up in the singularness of purpose on each play that you lose sight maybe of the gravity of that play,” Herman said. “No one play is more important than the other or should it be in our players’ minds. I think our guys are trained to the point where each play is its own entity and really none carry more weight than others.”
The Longhorns haven’t faced an offense like the Sooners yet this year, as Oklahoma ranks No. 1 in the country in yards per play, averaging 8.87 yards per snap. Texas will have to be able to keep that one play at a time focus as the game could feature big plays.
But just like every week, the focus is on putting a worthy performance on the field.
“We have to play our best in order to have a chance against elite teams in the country like Oklahoma,” Herman said. “If we roll in there with anything less than our A-plus game for four quarters, it’s not going to be good. It’s not going to be fun. But I think we’ve proven to ourselves that our best is good enough.”