The month of September has left the Longhorns bruised and battered. While the team has continued to fight, every punch Texas lands seems to be followed up by a jaw-breaking haymaker from its opponent.
When a boxer’s back is against the ropes, he has two options: give up and accept defeat, or fight.
Texas is at that same crossroad.
After suffering consecutive devastating losses, the Longhorns gathered for a players-only meeting prior to Sunday’s practice. What ensued was an hour-long opportunity for players to stand up, speak openly about their concerns and discuss what needs to change moving forward.
“We all went around and were in agreement that we needed to have a team meeting. Everybody understood that things needed to be said so we got together and did it,” defensive end Naashon Hughes said.
“Everybody got what they had to say off of their chest. Whether it was saying someone needs to play better or we need more leadership from these guys and these positions, we all understood where everyone was coming from. We all know we need to take that next step forward.”
According to Hughes, “pretty much everybody” spoke at the meeting. He took the opportunity to tell his teammates that more guys need to make plays and lead on the field, and through good times and bad, the team has to continue to encourage one another.
But the message that really hit home was from center Taylor Doyle.
“Taylor Doyle said it best. He said we’re at a critical point right now. We can either take a step backwards, let the team crumble and have a terrible season, or we can all come together, put this back on the tracks and get this thing rolling,” Hughes said. “Every day we have to go out there and try to become a better team and take that next step to become a great football team, which we are, we just have to put it all together.”
“We can’t let it get like last year,” Marcus Johnson said. “The seniors and older guys have to bring the team together and continue to tell the guys it’s still early in the season. There’s a lot of good football to be played.
“We have a stretch where we face TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas State, so we have to make up our minds and believe we can turn this thing around. Now it’s up to us to determine if we are willing to do it and if we are willing to put the work into it.”
Sunday was not the first time a struggling Texas squad came together for a players-only meeting. After starting the season with a 1-2 record, the 2013 Longhorns gathered as a team and said enough was enough. Texas chose to fight and won six-straight games, including an upset over No. 12 Oklahoma.
This year’s team is choosing a path similar to the 2013 squad. The Longhorns have seen positive changes after four games and will not give up without a fight.
“We have come so far and have put in so much work, so for us to be four games deep, we shouldn’t take a step back and we shouldn’t doubt ourselves,” Johnson said.
“We still have a lot of things we have to fix. But when you watch a game and you know that from an execution standpoint, that’s the reason why you didn’t finish it right and we aren’t 3-1 because of it, you start to see the hard work is paying off, although the record may not show it. Once we start being able to finish drives, extend drives and capitalize on the plays we need to make, things will turn around.
“It’s never too late to be great and do great things. We have to continue to keep that mindset because when you put work in like this, you can’t give up or forget about all of the work you have done.”