Guess which Big 12 coach has an even record against Bob Stoops of Oklahoma?
That would be Charlie Strong of Texas, who has beaten Stoops once and lost once, including a 24-17 win last year in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Texas went 5-7 last year despite upset wins over Oklahoma and Baylor and some think Strong must win more than five games this year to keep his job.
“I think it is they figure out who they’re playing and I wish they would figure that out every week,” Strong said of his team’s approach to the OU game. “No, it’s about being consistent. When you look at that match-up and it’s an unbelievable match-up and when you walk into that game, you’re right you can throw the records out the door because they’re going to come and they’re going to go play. Nothing has to be said. “That’s one game I don’t have to even give a pep talk. When we walk out there, when you come back in there is so much energy in the stadium that not much has to be said.
“You would like to see us play like that all the time and that’s what we haven’t. You go play well against Oklahoma and then you follow up the next week with a big win and then you lose a game that you never even showed up in and that’s on us as a coaching staff.”
Strong tells a story about showing his players video of the Baylor win in the locker room just after the game.
“I said, okay guys time to go and they’re looking at me and I said, what’s wrong? And they said the season is over,” Strong said. “And I said, yes, the season is over but if we had played like this, they should be continuing on. And I think that’s the taste left in their mouth because they felt like we should be a team that continued on.
“Then we get into the Bowl season and I texted a few of them and I said, how do you guys feel now and they were all upset. But you should be, but now it stings a little and it should sting because if you’re a competitor, it’s going to sting.”
Texas is the only school with a winning all-time record against Oklahoma.
“That’s one I have marked on my schedule after not playing the way we should have against them last year,” said OU quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was 20 for 28 for 211 yards against UT last year. “The Red River game is always exciting and it’s got a little more on it this year.”
Oklahoma State hit two field goals in the final 1:33 to rally past Texas last season. OSU outgained the Longhorns by a 395-290 margin.
Texas returns 15 starters, including quarterbacks Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes, who both saw extensive action. Heard was the team’s second-leading rusher with 556 yards while Swoopes had 12 rushing touchdowns. Heard led Texas in passing with 1,214 yards and five touchdowns with a 58 percent completion percentage. The Horns also return three offensive linemen.
Freshman Shane Buechele, son of former Rangers third baseman and current bench coach Steve Buechele, could win the quarterback job in preseason drills.
“Nothing has changed from Shane from the day one he stepped on campus,” Strong said. “I call him one of those guys, you know, you see guys they’re gym rats. That’s what he is. He’s always around the facility. You always see him. I was in there Sunday, getting ready to go down to San Antonio and walked in the game room and he and Collin Johnson were in there shooting pool, and I said, do you ever go to your room?
“But he’s a guy that — some guys just have that ability about ’em and you can just tell that. He’s a special young man probably because of the way he was raised with his father, with Steve doing an unbelievable job, and even his mom. I think she is the one who has done a better job than Steve. But you love his overall attitude. But when you have a guy like Shane working the way he works, it rubs off on the whole team. Now everybody is seeing the way he works and they all did it.”
Texas has five new assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, who arrived from Tulsa, with an up-tempo system.
“We’re still working, and Sterlin knows just how quickly and what you would like to see happen is you want to see progress,” Strong said. “You want to make sure that you get someone who can command the offense, someone that can move the ball but you have to be very balanced. If we’re able to establish a running game, then I think it’s going to make it a lot easier for our quarterback because now he’s going to be able to make the throws. It’s all about being balanced with the run and pass and it’s what we’re working for.”
Sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson headlines the Texas defense. He was named a freshman All-American in 2015 after finishing second on the team with 61 total tackles.
“We have to be better on defense,” Strong said. “You look at our team and you always want to build a team, because if you ever want to be good you have to be good on defense. You look at us last year we were very poor. We were able to stop people on first and second down, but our third down we aren’t able to get off the field and it allowed drives to continue on.”
Texas opens at home against Notre Dame and plays UTEP at home before traveling to California for their final nonconference game.