Friday, November 1, 2013
Texas keeping us-against-world mentality
By Max Olson
AUSTIN, Texas -- The music inside the Texas locker room briefly echoed into the hallways as players packed up after their 30-7 win over TCU. Maybe it was booming from a player’s headphones, or maybe everyone was listening.
The track playing was off Drake’s new “Nothing Was the Same" album. It’s safe to say, now that their team is rolling again, the Longhorns in that locker room are latching on to the rapper’s motto of late: "No new friends."
Quarterback Case McCoy and his Texas teammates closed ranks during a rough start to the season. Now their perseverance is paying off.
“If you weren’t there when we were struggling, we don’t need you there now,” safety Adrian Phillips said last week. “Of course, that’s how it always happens. When you lose, they hate you. When you win, they love you.”
Those fans he’s calling out are loving the Longhorns more than ever these days. A month ago, there were whispers -- and, on message boards, shouts -- that this team would have a hard time getting to six wins.
And then the Longhorns ran off four straight wins to start Big 12 play and trounced Oklahoma to the complete surprise of most. Now they’re a win away from six and playing like the talented, veteran-loaded team folks dreamed of in the preseason.
Now that times are good again, though, the players say they haven’t forgotten how quickly that same fan base turned on them when the record was 1-2.
“I really don’t care about the bandwagon and all that,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “If you with us, stay with us. If you’re not, get out the way.”
Diggs and his teammates plan to hold on to their us-against-the-world mentality, even in the face of win after win. Now that the fans are back on board, they’ll need a few new motivators.
Here’s one: Texas is tied for first place in the Big 12 standings but remains unranked. Wins over 2-5 Kansas and 3-5 West Virginia in the next two weeks might not change that, either, even if the Longhorns are rolling with a six-game winning streak.
Quarterback Case McCoy isn’t that surprised. He recognizes his team is still being punished for its early-season losses to BYU and Ole Miss.
“I think the way we started off the season was not acceptable for this program,” he said. “We’ll keep fighting against that. Our job isn’t to rank ourselves, thank goodness. Our job is to keep winning. If we keep winning, the polls will take care of themselves.”
So there’s the disrespect card. That one usually proves valuable in locker rooms. How about a little revenge, too?
Kansas embarrassed Texas last season in Lawrence and came oh-so-close to pulling the upset. West Virginia handed Texas its first loss of 2012, in a game the Longhorns could have won if not for a few untimely mistakes late.
“Trust me, we will hear about that,” McCoy said. “We understand how we played against them last year, the immaturity that we had. There are still guys and teams we definitely have a target for, we’re going after. That’s part of it.
“Our goal is a Big 12 championship. You slip up and lose one, that quickly starts fading out the window.”
The Longhorns were a two-score underdog against OU and a two-point dog at TCU. They’ll be favored in the next two weeks; there’s little doubt about that. But that doesn’t mean they won’t still feel underestimated.
Diggs is happy to embrace the feeling. He says the days following those first two losses were brutal. But they provided a catalyst for this team, a need to close ranks and stop paying attention to what anybody outside that locker room was saying.
Just because the Longhorns have won four games doesn’t mean that changes. Just because fans are showing him love on Twitter again and hopping back on the bandwagon doesn’t change a thing. Nor does it matter if Texas is a 28-point favorite this week. Diggs doesn’t want to hear it.
“Nah, keep us underdogs,” he said. “We want to be underdogs. Leave us the underdogs. What do they say: The hungry dog gets the bone. That’s been our mentality. That’s just what we do.”