So is Charlie Strong back on the hot seat?
The head football coach of the Texas Longhorns faced the question prior to the start of the season. However, after the Longhorns upset then-10th ranked Notre Dame to begin the 2016 campaign, the talk wasn’t about whether Strong’s job was on the line, but whether Texas football was on its way back to glory.
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Now, the question returns following the Longhorns 49-31 loss to Oklahoma State this past weekend in Stillwater, a loss that knocked Texas out of the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll after being ranked 22nd going into the game. Sitting at 2-2 heading into the Red River Showdown with No. 20 Oklahoma, is there a feeling that the thrill is gone?
“No, I don’t because it’s all about confidence,” said Strong after the loss to Oklahoma State. “It’s still kids playing with confidence and you can get that back.”
Reports are that Texas will not fire Strong during the season, avoiding a fate that Les Miles suffered a week ago at LSU when the Tigers pulled the plug after their loss to Auburn. In fact, the situation with Strong does sort of mirror that of Miles, who was also on the hot seat in Baton Rouge before the season began. There’s a lot of pressure to win at both Texas and LSU, and patience runs thin in a short period of time. It doesn’t help that Strong didn’t exactly get a vote of confidence from Texas athletic director Mike Perrin, who told ESPN that “I'm not evaluating Charlie, per se. I'm evaluating everything."
Also keep in mind that Strong is in the third year of a five-year deal. If he’s let go after the season, he would receive a $10 million buyout.
So where has it gone wrong? Putting points on the board is not an issue for Texas. They outgained Oklahoma State 568 to 555 in total offense despite losing by 18. Giving up points on defense is where the Longhorns are struggling to say the least. They’ve given up over 40 points in three games so far, and tackling was a huge issue against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were able to break off big plays due to poor tackling on defense.
“That’s what was driving me crazy,” said Strong. “I tell our guys all the time it’s something you have to do over and over. You’ve got to preach it.”
Now all eyes will be on the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 8 for the 111th edition of the Red River Showdown as both teams will go into this one with 2-2 records. Texas will spend this week trying to get their defensive issues solved as they now face an Oklahoma team that just put up 52 points against TCU in Fort Worth. If the Longhorns had problems preventing the Cowboys from breaking tackles in Stillwater, there will definitely be worries facing the Sooners’ triple threat on offense consisting of quarterback Baker Mayfield and the running back duo of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Plus, wide receiver Dede Westbrook went for 158 yards receiving and two touchdowns against the Frogs.
Granted, you can throw the records out the window when it comes down to this rivalry, but on paper this looks like another high scoring game similar to the one against California in Week 3. Texas lost that one 50-43.
This weekend will be a good barometer to measure the temperature of how hot the seat is down in Austin for Strong. A win and things cool off, but a loss and the seat might get warmer.
Kick-off is Saturday at 11 a.m. in Dallas.