Football

Strong Anger

Peter Jinkens. (Will Gallagher/IT)
Peter Jinkens. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Angry men win football games, Darrell Royal once observed. That’s why the biggest problem following Texas’ 41-7 loss is that coaches are angrier than the players. At least, that was coach Charlie Strong’s assessment Monday of team’s temperature. He even tried last week to manufacture some pre-game righteous anger with a locker room ploy.

Strong wanted to see if it would light within his troops a fire if BYU paraphernalia was conspicuously displayed throughout the locker room. It didn’t even strike a match. Inquiring minds wanted to know which players would rise up and tear it down. The answer is: none of the above.

“You would think at least one person would have stood up and done something about it,” Strong said Monday.

Strong has already developed a reputation among his players for his “mind games.” His latest tactic, apparently, left room for interpretation.

Said RB Malcolm Brown, “I didn’t think that was how it needed to be thought about. It was motivational to me, but it definitely didn’t cross my mind to take it down.”

Said WLB Jordan Hicks: “I didn’t know he was wanting that…(Strong) has been looking for someone to take control and be a vocal guy. At this point, a lot of guys feel like it is a team effort (but) nobody has stepped as the one, lead guy.”

Strong may have to overnight some UCLA banners. Or at least try, try again in some other fashion. His comments Monday were strikingly similar to those made August 11. That’s when he ordered his team off the field following a listless start to practice and then later told media: “You’d like to think you have enough seniors in your program that someone would have said something.”

The lack of vocal team leadership is about the only that hasn’t changed within the program this past month. Problem is, too few players believe they have the scalps to get in somebody’s face. Few are convinced they have the street-cred to hold others accountable. Too many players believe they have not earned the right to be taken seriously.

“The team respects certain guys,” Hicks said. “There are leaders on the team, and it comes from earning your stripes. To get people to respect you, your teammates have to know you care about the game.”

For seniors, however, it must come with the territory.

“Unless seniors take control,” Hicks said, “this team won’t go very far. Coach Strong has said from the very beginning that this team will only go as far as (the seniors) take it.”

A couple of coaches have said the program lacks leadership primarily because the program has lacked success (based on its lofty standards) in recent years. The senior class now has a pedestrian 18-9 record on its resume.

“Guys want to get it fixed,” Brown said. “It’s the last go-round for a lot of us. We’ve got a great group of seniors. We’ve got possibly 10 more games to go. In my mind, that’s motivation right there to get it down. Seniors don’t have too much longer.”

QB Tyrone Swoopes will be making his second collegiate start Saturday, but the softspoken believes leadership is incumbent of his position.

“I feel like I have to take on a more vocal role because people look to me for encouragement,” Swoopes said. “I have to speak up a little bit more.”

At the very least, players have bought-in, Hicks said.

“The people that haven’t bought-in are gone,” he said. “We’re on our way to getting it fully handled.”

So, other than winning, what has to happen for the 2014 Longhorns to get back on course?

It starts when players stop being scared of losing and start getting angry by losing. It starts when players channel their anger into a collective mindset of, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

It may not translate into winning every game in the future, but it will take care of all those losses in the past. After all: trends are bunk. Angry men win football games.