GETTING THEIR MINDS RIGHT

Charlie Strong and the Texas coaching staff are trying to think of everything to make sure the Longhorns' minds are right as UT tries to win its first game this season away from Austin (0-4).

Texas is 5-12 in road or neutral site games in three seasons under Charlie Strong, including 1-7 in true road games the past two seasons (with the only win coming at Baylor last season).

So with a make-or-break road game at Texas Tech Saturday, Strong and his staff are trying to think of everything to get the mindset of the team right. 

That includes how the energy on the sideline has to be a lot better during road games than at home (where the Horns are 4-0 this season).

"There were times against K-State where the sideline reaction to some plays wasn't what it should have been," tight end Andrew Beck said Monday. "And the coaches addressed that. 

"As long as the juice on the sideline is what it should be, I think we'll be all right."

DT Chris Nelson said the music being played at K-State "was some slow country."

"But we can't let that get to us," Nelson said. "And I listen to country. Some country is good. But that country (music) was bad - kinda sleepy. But we can't let that bother us."

Several players said Coach Strong's decision not to start LB Malik Jefferson, LB Anthony Wheeler, DE Charles Omenihu and LG Patrick Vahe  was taken the right way by those players, and it resulted in a positive reaction.

Jefferson led the team in tackles vs Baylor (10), including 2 sacks and 2.5 TFLs. Wheeler was the team's second-leading tackler (9) and forced two fumbles. Omenihu posted the first sack of the game.

"It was a spark moment for those players," Nelson said. "Those guys took it the right way and played well."

Added senior LB Tim Cole, who got a rare start last Saturday, "Malik grew from a maturity standpoint, and when his number was called, he did his job."

LT Connor Williams said Vahe has taken being replaced in the starting lineup by Jake McMillon as a push to get better for his teammates.

"I like that Patrick's character is showing," Williams said. "This team is a family to him, and he wants to do whatever it takes to help the team. So he's digging in."

Charlie Strong had some praise Monday for CB Kris Boyd, saying Boyd is taking it to a different level at CB and that he's separating himself.

And Strong's having Boyd flip sides at corner - so Boyd's  always next to the Texas sideline, where coaches can talk to him easily about the calls and how to line up.

Strong is doing things like that to make sure the guys with the most confidence and energy - or "juice" as Strong calls it - are on the field. Having players like Boyd on the field add to the team's confidence in a hostile environment, teammates said.

"I like the intensity Kris brings to the defense - to the whole team,"said cornerback John Bonney. "Kris is a character for sure. He just has so much confidence in himself and his game. He just keeps everyone up on the field with his energy. You love playing with him because of that."

Bonney said he picked up a lot of confidence in the Baylor game, especially drawing a holding penalty in the end zone that resulted in a Baylor safety - two points that ended up making a HUGE difference in a one-point victory (35-34).

"I felt like the safety was a turning point in the game," Bonney said.

"That game was a boost to my confidence," Bonney said of his two pass breakups while defending Baylor receivers K.D. Cannon and Ishmael Zamora. "Athletically, I know I can cover. But I just needed that boost of confidence to know I can do it against one of the best receivers in the league (K.D. Cannon) in a game we really needed."

OLB Breckyn Hager said he was proud of Jefferson "for stepping up."

"Coach Strong just sent the message that it doesn't matter what the past experience you have, if you're not getting it done on the field, you're going to be replaced," Hager said.

"But I'm proud of Malik for playing an excellent game. All the guys who didn't start stepped up to the occasion and stepped up big on the field."

Players said Strong continues to tell them not to worry about his job security with four games left. 

But Hager said, "We have to win to keep him, so we need to go win this weekend and win for ourselves and for our seniors, who need to go to a bowl game and be sent out the right way."

Strong said the team needs to do a "better job of the whole mindset" and needs to take on a "road warrior mentality." Especially against an offense led by QB Patrick Mahomes, who set the FBS single-game record for total offense (819 yards ... 734 passing and 85 rushing) in Tech's last home game (a 66-59 loss to OU).

"If we don't against a team as explosive as Tech, we'll get embarrassed," Strong said.

 

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