Last week’s performances from the Texas Longhorns and Baylor Bears left their respective fan bases, and talking heads across the nation, more than a bit bewildered. Both programs are facing new beginnings and looking for a new direction, albeit for their own reasons. Going into the season opener both programs put on an optimistically confident face, but were embarrassed on Saturday. Should the Longhorn and Bears faithful be worried? Is it time to panic?
Last season under Charlie Strong, Texas went 5-7 after a big win over Notre Dame to open the season. One game into the season, it’s pretty hard to argue there has been any improvement.
In the aftermath of the loss to Maryland, Tom Herman stated that sprinkling “fairy dust” would not quickly change the problems plaguing the program. He’s right, nobody expected to see Tinker Bell soaring high above Darrell K. Royal Stadium. However, after nine months of hype and anticipation, we expected to see some major improvement in minor details, focus, and discipline. The Longhorn program was a cake baked by Charlie Strong, all Herman had to do was frost it. Instead, what we got was the broken egg shells and spilled flour of a small child’s attempt to bake a cake. When Longhorn fans saw the mess in the kitchen on Saturday, it was clear mistakes had been made.
Herman indicated that the Longhorns were their “own worst enemy” and were “fragile mentally” during his press conference. After seeing them make many of the same mistakes it’s hard to argue with him. The Longhorns appear to be facing down the same old ghosts, somehow incapable of moving past them without creating new regrets in the process. It’s a vicious cycle.
Down in Waco, Matt Rhule seemed at a complete loss in explaining what happened against Liberty: “Everything that could have gone wrong in that game went wrong”.
Granted, Rhule had to start a new quarterback, Anu Solomon, in a new system, at a new school. It did not go as planned. He was also forced to start a backup running back, JaMycal Hasty, due to injury. Hasty also happened to go down to injury during the game.
Despite these unfortunate events, the fact remains that Baylor has elevated its college football pedigree and status in recent years and is expected to win against the likes of Liberty. The Bears play in the Big 12 Conference, and they won at least a share of the conference title in 2013 and 2014. Three seasons later, losing to Liberty at home seemed unfathomable, yet here we are.
Sure, Saturday’s end results quickly exposed the truth about where the teams in Austin and Waco currently stand, and the fans were understandably disappointed. But everyone should remain calm. Changing an entire coaching staff, system, and culture is a huge process. Unlike winning the Powerball, success doesn’t come overnight.
The old adage is that you see the most improvement in a college football team from week one to week two. The season provides each team with twelve guaranteed opportunities to showcase its talent. Twelve opportunities in which to learn, to grow, and to improve. You cannot simply write off the new ball coach and the remaining eleven opportunities because the first game didn’t go as scripted.
Tom Herman and Matt Rhule were chosen to lead these two programs for many important reasons. Consider that neither currently have their “type” of player yet in place and are doing their best with what they’ve been given or have been able to recruit. In fact, Rhule accepted the job at Baylor with only one existing recruit still on board after the fallout in Waco. With the proper amount of time to fully implement their respective visions and stock their rosters with incoming recruiting classes, the truth about their merits will shine through.
All we need is just a little patience.