A football team gets physically injured. Players get tossed around and thrown into scrums, and bones get broken.
But most people do not see the mental injuries. Coming off back-to-back losses to non-conference opponents, Texas’ attitude has changed since the last time it saw a win 17 days ago.
“Everybody is pretty hurt,” senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley said. “No one wants to lose two games back-to-back like that.”
For a football program with the revered history of Texas, losing is unacceptable, never mind losing two of its first three games. The last time the Longhorns started 1-2 was 1998 in Mack Brown’s first year at Texas. On Monday, Brown joked about how a friend told him in 1998 that Brown would not find enough friends to even be pallbearers for him by going 1-2, so he would have to be cremated. Wonder what he’s thinking now?
On Saturday evening, after the loss to Ole Miss, there was a somber mood among the players as they talked about what went wrong. The week before, after the shellacking they took against BYU, most Longhorn players just sat quietly and answered questions as quickly as possible.
Senior safety Adrian Phillips said there wasn’t much difference in the feeling between this weekend’s loss and last weekend’s.
“Every loss feels the same,” Phillips said. “You’re aggravated and wondering what you could have done differently to change the outcome.”
Brown spent most of fall camp hyping up his team, promising Longhorn fans that his 9-4 unit from last season would get back to Texas expectations.
“You work so long for this time, and it’s a slow start,” Phillips said. “But we can still get it turned around. You’re angry, but at the same time, we still have the rest of the season to go.”
That is what Texas is trying to do. Brown explained that the preparation and effort has always been there, and it is just a matter of going out and playing. While the team may be hurt, it must hold together as a unit.
“They’re doing everything right,” Brown said. “They’re not splitting [or] breaking up; they’re fighting. Good lesson for all of us. When things are bad, you don’t lay down — you keep fighting. And that’s what we’re doing.”
Players on the defense said they are ready to go out and change what they have seen in the past two weeks.
“Nothing else needs to be said,” Phillips said. “It comes to the point now where you just have to go out and get it done. All that hoo-rah stuff doesn’t matter when you aren’t putting out the work. Now it’s to the point where we know what needs to be done and now it’s time to go do it.”
Brown and his team have emphasized one specific overused cliche since their loss on Saturday: staying positive. Instead of breaking apart, which often causes an even worse downward spiral, the Longhorns’ seniors have come together and tried to propel forward in fixing the 1-2 mess.
“It’s tough taking two losses, especially when they’re in a row,” senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “We’re going to use that as fuel. There are things you can learn from a loss. We can’t let this get us down.”