Granted, two of those games were against teams that are currently in the top-15, Notre Dame and TCU, but the ‘Horns most recent road hiccup, a 24-0 loss in Ames to Iowa State, was a real cause for concern on the 40 Acres.
The task doesn’t get much easier this week, as the Longhorns come to Morgantown to face a West Virginia team that has gone 4-1 at Milan Puskar Stadium this year. However, Strong’s team will be riding the momentum of a big time bounce back performance last week as the Longhorns demolished Kansas 59-20 in Austin.
Strong said he is wary of his team’s mindset heading into this week’s road test, as they were riding high before their last road stumble.
“Our guys do understand how important it is, but I do know this: If you need to change anything, it’s just the buildup. We go beat Kansas State, and for some reason you go into Iowa State, you expect to play well and we don’t play well there. Last night, we didn’t have to say much. They were locked in and focused. They know how big this game is,” he said.
Texas is a young team with a lot of inexperienced players in important positions. Strong said some of the younger guys tend to get too high or too low after a game, when the best course of action is to leave what’s past in the past, and focus on the task at hand. This week, that task is beating the West Virginia Mountaineers and evening your team’s record at 5-5.
“When you’re dealing with a young team, you can’t build them up. I think a lot of times they start believing that, they start listening to it. Listen, guys, let’s just go get the next one. On Sunday, I didn’t even show them (Kansas) highlights. I said hey folks, our focus is on West Virginia,” Strong said.
When playing on the road, the crowd can be a major factor in the game. Strong has seen this plenty of times in his head coaching experience, and has experience in dealing with raucous WVU crowds during his days at Louisville. Strong said a strong start, combined with a well-rounded effort is the key to silencing opposing fans and setting yourself up for success on the road.
“They’ve heard about it so much. With each game, we haven’t played well on the road, but even then, we’ve dropped two at home. It’s about playing well in all three phases. We need to get off to a good start, and we need the quarterback to play well,” Strong said.
Texas will do its best to repeat the start it had last week against Kansas, when the 'Horns scored on their first three drives of the game, highlighted by an 84-yard touchdown pass from Jerrod Heard to John Burt on UT’s first offensive play from scrimmage.
“You’d like to start off like the other night, throw the ball down the field, let Burt go get it. Anytime you’re on the road, you need to establish the run and get first downs. You go take the thrown downfield, but you have to move the ball. It can’t be one of those three-and-outs. Once you create first downs, it’s going to lead to touchdowns,” Strong said.
The Longhorns last came to Morgantown in 2013, when Mack Brown was in his last year as the head coach. Texas won that game 47-40 in overtime behind three passing touchdowns from quarterback Case McCoy.
This is a much different looking Texas team with Strong at the helm, however, and Saturday’s contest figures to look a lot different than that 47-40 overtime shootout from two years ago.