clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No. 22 Texas looks improved, but now the challenge is remaining consistent

Can the Longhorns build on the Red River Shutout and keep rolling as the competition level rises?

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

“We [enjoyed it] for 24 hours, whatever it was, not even that much.”

After finishing 5-7 last season and failing to ever find one, the Texas Longhorns 49-0 Red River shutout victory over the Oklahoma Sooners marked the program’s first monumental win under Steve Sarkisian.

For a number of reasons, the significance of such a dominant showing was apparent, beyond the sheer fact that it was the Red River Showdown. Texas’ issues with collapsing spawned in the Cotton Bowl last season, which ultimately sparked the season spiraling out of control. So, this time around, the RRS served as a much-needed opportunity for the Horns’ to exorcise some of the demons that derailed their 2021 season — collapsing, playing with confidence, playing complementary football, etc.

Simply stated, it was a big win in a big moment, but by Monday morning, Sark and the Longhorns had closed the book on OU.

Now, the real test begins as they come face-to-face with new challenges: Being consistent as the competition level increases, and doing so as the narrative shifts in their favor.

“One of the keys to be a great team is not to be influenced by the outside noise,” said Sark.

Now sitting at 4-2 and ranked halfway through the season, ESPN’s Rece Davis called Texas a team that could finish just outside of the playoff picture looking in, while FOX Sports’ Joel Klatt dubbed them the best team in the Big 12.

To be sure, there are certainly some strong metrics in Texas’ favor, and the eye test — especially with quarterback Quinn Ewers back in the fold — suggests that the Longhorns just might be a damn good team if you can look past the lingering shadow of last season. But for that to actually prove true, they’ll have to continue looking the part week in and week out as the competition level increases pretty substantially.

Thus far, Texas’ four wins have come against teams with a combined record of 11-12 — only 4-2 UTSA is above .500.

Now, Texas’ final six opponents, which include four top 20 teams in No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 13 TCU, No. 17 Kansas State, and No. 19 Kansas, own a collective 26-7 record. The weak link of what remains comes this coming Saturday in the form of 3-3 Iowa State, which stomped the Horns 30-7 last season and ignited defensive line coach Bo Davis’ profanity-laced tirade on the bus. *NSFW*

So, as the old saying goes, consistency is key.

Texas overpowering OU was great for its own reasons, but it will suddenly start to mean less if the Longhorns start stumbling.

Not that Texas can’t or won’t lose another game this season — who knows, they might not — but for a rebuilding program in Year Two of the Sark era, that consistency is absolutely critical to build sustainable confidence, to inch closer to their goals, and finish with a season they’re proud of versus one they felt like they let slip away, as was the case in 2021.

But in the aftermath of Texas’ win over the Sooners, Sarkisian detailed why he believes his Longhorns are heading in the right direction with consistency.

“I watch the intent of our players, I watch the focus, I watch the mental intensity. I think our guys are really dialed in. I listen at practice, and when you listen to conversations, it’s about what’s going on on the play or the adjustment that needs to be made on either side of the ball. There’s communication if the twos are in, the ones are watching and talking about what they would do or how to play the play. So to me, that tells me they’re dialed in to what we’re trying to do,” Sarkisian said.

“We’ve got a really cool team that has grown up, that has matured,” Sark added. “Ultimately, we can talk about culture, we can talk about maturity, we can talk about those things and put it on a board and all that. The reality of it is, it’s about our actions and our actions are one that tell me that’s the direction we’re heading in and continue to head in in a positive way. Ultimately, we have to put it on the field Saturday.”

And on Saturday when the Horns host the Cyclones for the next stop in their revenge tour, they’ll have a chance to secure the first three-game winning streak of the Sark era. Then if they’re consistent, they’ll enter Stillwater with a chance to reach bowl eligibility while taking another significant step towards their season goals.

How close they actually get to those goals will depend entirely on how consistent Texas can be from here on out.

“A lot of our guys on our team, there’s a lot of bad taste in their mouth from the way some of those games went last year and the opportunities that ultimately fall on us, that we let go of,” Sark said. ‘So, I think our players are really buying into the idea of, ‘Man let’s go play the way we capable the way we’re capable of playing and finish the way we’re capable of finishing.’ … We want to go out and show what we’re capable of doing.”