In January, 2014, news was announced that Louisville head coach Charlie Strong would be leaving the Cardinals to succeed Mack Brown at the University of Texas following Brown’s resignation after the Longhorns’ 30-7 loss at the hands of the Oregon Ducks in the Alamo Bowl. At the time, Strong was one of the hottest coaching candidates on the market and it seemed that Texas athletic director Steve Patterson had struck gold with his coaching hire.
During the 2014 season, Strong led the Longhorns to a 6-7 record following a 31-7 beatdown at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks. It wasn’t the best showing from Strong after Brown had won at least eight games each of the prior three seasons, but a little regression following a coaching change isn’t unheard of and the Longhorns still made a bowl game.
Last season wasn’t much better for Strong and the Longhorns as the team’s record dipped to 5-7 and missed out on a bowl game. Fortunately for Strong, Patterson was fired in September and former Texas linebacker and Houston-based attorney Mike Perrin was hired as the interim athletic director. It gave Charlie a little more time to prove that he is the right man for the job.
Despite the disappointing 2015 season, Charlie Strong went into the offseason and dominated. His first order of business was to find a new offensive coordinator to jump-start the offense. Strong settled on Tulsa’s co-offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and also named him quarterbacks coach. Then Strong went out and signed a top-10 recruiting class which was an impressive feat considering the Longhorns’ struggles the last two seasons.
With a lot of talent returning on defense, and a four-star freshman quarterback named Shane Buechele running the show on offense, the Texas Longhorns finally looked like they were in position to make some noise in the Big 12 Conference this season. After all, Texas did have two impressive wins last season over top-15 teams, Oklahoma and Baylor.
The 2016 season started off with a bang for the Longhorns as they defeated Notre Dame in double-overtime, 50-47, on Labor Day. Buechele went 16-of-26 for 280 yards and two touchdowns passing and added 33 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Fellow quarterback Tyrone Swoopes scored the game-winning touchdown and rushed for 53 yards and three touchdowns on the evening.
It was certainly an impressive showing by the new-look Texas offense as the unit had 517 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great night for the Longhorns’ defense as they gave up 444 yards to Notre Dame’s offense and allowed quarterback DeShone Kizer to throw for five touchdowns. Still, it was a win and Texas moved up to No. 11 in the AP poll after the victory.
The Longhorns followed the Notre Dame win with a blowout of the UTEP Miners. Buechele threw for 244 yards and four touchdowns and the Longhorns gained 171 yards on the ground. More impressively, the Texas defense held the Miners to only 208 yards total and only 73 yards passing as Vance Bedford’s unit played much better, albeit against a weaker opponent.
Last week, Texas came out against the California Golden Bears and scored on their first four possessions in their first road game of the season to take a 10-point lead. The Longhorns then allowed the Bears to take a 50-43 lead with 3:41 left in the game. Buechele was sacked deep in his own territory late and Texas was forced to punt to dangerous return man Vic Enwere who seemingly took the punt back for the game-ending touchdown, but upon further review, Enwere fumbled the ball at the 1-yard-line as he dropped it to celebrate.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 1, 2016
Unfortunately for the Texas Longhorns, the replay referee ruled that there wasn’t an immediate recovery so the Bears were given the ball at the 1-yard-line and were able to run out the clock. Whether it was a controversial finish or not, the defense still allowed Cal to score 50 points and rack up 507 yards on offense.
Looking to rebound, Texas headed to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday. The defense struggled once again as the Cowboys put up 37 first-half points in a 49-31 victory over the Longhorns. Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph threw for 392 yards on only 19 completions and fired three touchdowns. The Cowboys’ also added 163 yards rushing on the ground for a grand total of 555 yards of total offense.
Final from Stillwater. Longhorns fall to 2-2, 0-1 in the Big 12. pic.twitter.com/J8TDqpq40u
— Texas Football (@Longhorn_FB) October 1, 2016
Charlie Strong’s strength has always been on the defensive side of the football so having given up 47 points or more in three of the team’s first four games this season is certainly disconcerting. Hiring Gilbert and adding Buechele has done a world of good for the Longhorns’ offense, but it doesn’t matter if the defense can’t stop anyone.
Following Saturday’s loss, Perrin was asked about the game and he certainly wasn’t a happy man. Rivals.com writer Anwar Richardson asked him following the game about Strong’s future and the athletic director didn’t exactly give Charlie a vote of confidence.
I grabbed Texas AD Mike Perrin and asked about Charlie Strong’s future. He told me “We need to evaluate what happened here.”
— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) October 1, 2016
No one can blame Perrin for feeling that way. Texas is supposed to be a National Championship contender year in and year out, but they haven’t even sniffed a New Year’s Day bowl since the Longhorns’ 2009 BCS National Championship loss to Alabama. The constant underachievement by the Texas Longhorns football team shouldn’t be tolerated and it sounds like Mike Perrin is nearing the end of his leash with Charlie Strong.
[Featured Image via Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]