DALLAS – This is Texas. Football reigns king in the Lone Star State and Charlie Strong was brought in to take the Longhorns back to national prominence.
Barely squeaking into a bowl game appearance at 6-6 last season did not sit well with second-year Longhorn head coach.
“We have to have a winning season,” Strong said boldly in his opening statement at Big 12 Media Days.
In 2014, following an embarrassing 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, the Longhorns finished a dismal 6-7 overall, marking just the second time since 1998 that Texas failed to win more than six games.
Being Texas, Strong said they expect more from their team coming into this year.
“It will never be good enough at the University of Texas,” he said. “We know we lost a lot of players on defense, returned a lot on offense, but we have to improve as a coaching staff. We have to do a better job of coaching. But we’ve also got to get our players to go play and go compete and go compete week in and week out.”
Looking towards this season, the Longhorns have picked it up, especially in the toughness of their non-conference slate heading into Big 12 play – Texas opens the season on the road in South Bend against Notre Dame, before playing Rice and California, and then opening conference play against Oklahoma State.
The Fighting Irish are coming off a 9-3 season, including a 29-16 win in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl over Rutgers.
Both programs, Texas and Notre Dame are rich in tradition, Strong said, and will make for a great game and they will be ready.
“When you have an opponent like Notre Dame and it’s right there at the beginning of the season and through the winter conditioning, through the off‑season, it’s something that you’ve been working to,” he said. “So now it’s something that’s sitting there where they understand just the whole ‑‑ just the magnitude of that game, and they return a lot of starters. It’s going to be an unbelievable game for us. Very challenging game. But we need to go out and we need to go play well, and they understand what’s really good is Notre Dame. So not a lot has to be said. Now it’s about us just building our team.”
Next is Rice, which is coming off a third-straight bowl eligible season.
The Owls turning seven-plus win seasons for the last three years, going 8-5, 10-4 and 7-6. In 2013 Rice won the Conference USA Championship game as well.
Finally California, in its third season under Sonny Dykes, looks to bounce back after a 5-7 season. But they did show signs of improvement, losing three of those by a touchdown or fewer.
Despite coming off a tough season, Strong said playing a tough opening schedule is what they look forward to and welcome at Texas.
“But the good thing about it, why would you want it any other way?” he said. “That’s why, if you’re at a place at University of Texas, and that’s why players have to understand, it’s all about competing. That’s why you’re here. You’re here to go compete for championships.”
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