Head coach Charlie Strong showed his players the negative comments made about Texas after its 38-3 loss to Notre Dame before the team took the field against Rice.
What the players heard sickened them. A Chicago sports radio host said a high school football team could beat Texas, among other negative comments.
Freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson sunk in his chair and tried not to listen. He wanted to yell in frustration after hearing the national media’s perspective.
“It was embarrassing how the media talked about us,” Jefferson said. “Normally we don’t keep track with what the media does. It was really depressing because you don’t want that. So you want to bounce back and do something great.”
This isn’t the first time Strong has tried to motivate his players with negativity. Before the Longhorns’ game against BYU last season, Strong put up posters highlighting Texas’ 40-21 loss to the Cougars in 2013. He expected his players to rip the signs down. They didn’t, and the Longhorns lost, 41-7.
But this time, the Texas players took the negativity to heart. Sophomore safety Jason Hall, who said he doesn’t pay attention to social media, said it’s been irritating to hear what everyone has had to say, and that hearing motivated him to perform better.
“For [the coaches] to bring that information upon us, it gets very irritating,” Hall said. “Of course [it motivates us]. It’s just natural competitiveness. You don’t want those things being said about our team.”
Strong’s motivational tactic paid off as Texas beat Rice, 42-28. The Longhorns hope they can build off the win and upset the favored California Golden Bears.
“It’s all about consistency,” Strong said. “Cal is a little different than Rice. They’re going to be up-tempo. They score a lot of points. If we do give up the points, can we go match the score? That’s going to be key.”
While the team used the negativity to fuel them past Rice, junior safety Dylan Haines said hearing the negativity “pissed him off.” He said the reporters and analysts talking about Texas are looking from the outside in.
Haines said the Longhorns are ready to prove the naysayers wrong.
“It just makes us all mad,” Haines said. “We look at ourselves, and we know we’re not the best team in college football. We know we’re not where we’d like to be. We know what we have to work on. Nothing that anyone says outside of the program is going to affect the way we work or affect the view of where we can be.”