The last time Malik Jefferson was part of a team that took one on the chin like Texas did to Notre Dame was the first game of his senior season when Mesquite (Texas) Poteet lost to Lancaster (Texas) 33-2.
Poteet went on to win its next 10 games.
OK, so the odds of the Longhorns writing a similar script aren’t good. But Jefferson is confident that Texas will get this turned around one way or another.
“You can’t give up on anything you love. We love to play ball,” Jefferson said. “You love to win. At the end of the day, sometimes you have to win. At one point you have to put your foot down and win.”
Jefferson will tell you he didn’t put his best foot forward, but it was a darn good one considering it was his first-ever game as a Longhorn. He led Texas with five solo tackles and two tackles-for-loss, and was second on the team with nine total tackles.
“My instincts came back,” he said. “That’s what I like playing off of. Sometimes I can’t rely on them, sometimes I can. I think I need to take a step back, really get back to my fundamentals and get ready for the next game coming up.”
After the game Jefferson said that he needs to do a better job of helping the Longhorns line up as well as drop back into coverage.
“People being aligned wrong, of course I was one of those people,” he said, when asked what needed to be fixed. “We should have moved some things up front on the D-line but that didn’t work out. At the end of the day we looked at film and we know what to do.”
One area that Jefferson said the team was putting an emphasis on covering was the intermediate area behind the linebackers and in front of UT’s safeties. It was there for the taking all night against the Irish, and ND quarterback Malik Zaire took… over and over again.
“I think we just didn’t execute, that’s what it comes down to,” he said. “We messed up on things that need to be fixed. We look back on film and we all just shake our heads because we know it’s the little things we can fix at any time.
“You have higher expectations for your first game. You go through the offseason, spring training, summer training, that everyone will be ready. We were ready. We just didn’t go out and do our jobs. You can’t blame anybody. You can only blame yourself for what you did.”
To the credit of Texas' defense, it was on the field for just under 40 minutes due to UT’s struggles on offense. Jefferson said the attitude was simply to not give up.
“Keep fighting. We couldn’t give up,” he said. “We had a hard time trying not to get tired but we have to try our best, but we can’t blame [the offense]. We are supposed to mind our Ps and Qs as well.”
Minding their own business and acting like typical freshmen is something this 2015 class hasn’t done.
Jefferson, for one, doesn’t see himself as a freshman and his teammates certainly don’t treat him like one. Especially his fellow classmates.
"They were really proud of me. I told them thank you,” he said. “My goal was to set an example for what they need to do because we all have to play one day. I told them not to have that mindset of being a freshman. You go out there and play like you are a junior or senior no matter what because this is your job interview.”
Be it Jefferson, offensive line starters Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe, starting receiver John Burt, defensive back Kris Boyd, or linebacker Breckyn Hager all of those freshmen made positive impacts on the game in some facet or another.
But it was not cause for celebration for the young Horns.
“We are excited about what we did but not very proud about the result,” he said. “There’s really no celebration at the end of the day because it’s not a one-man team. Twenty-two people go out and put their hearts out on the field every play.”
Jefferson was asked if he thought the freshmen should take over the team. He said that wasn’t the teams role right now.
“We don’t see ourselves taking over the team,” he said. “We see ourselves coming in and helping the team. We know it’s not about us. It’s about the older guys and they didn’t have success these past years. Our time will come and we understand that.”
As a whole, sure, there time might not be now and it will come. But that doesn’t apply to Jefferson.
His time is now.