Commentary

Learning in the bye week

Longhorns focused on fundamentals, not 3-0 start

Updated: September 22, 2011, 11:00 AM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- The coach is just glad this year hasn't been a repeat of last year.

[+] EnlargeFoswhitt Whittaker
Harry How/Getty ImagesTexas got a big road win already this season, but knows it will only get tougher.
The team has started slowly in games but has been coming together in time to pull off some close wins.

The record is 3-0 with two home wins and a big road win.

And finally, there is a bye this Saturday, and time to survey the landscape, heal up and look ahead.

Sound familiar? It's not Texas. Say hello to Iowa State.

To say the Cyclones and Longhorns are mirror images would be a stretch. Then again, both teams seem thankful to be 3-0.

"Not a lot of people thought we'd be 3-0 at this point," Mack Brown said.

Texas was favored in every game. Iowa State, on the other hand ...

"I don't know if anyone picked us to win three," ISU coach Paul Rhodes said. "One or two maybe, but I don't know that anyone picked us to win three games."

So Texas and Iowa State are more alike than it appears, at least in their mindset, if not personnel. The latter leans in Texas' favor, but talent isn't always enough, as Texas found out in 2010.

The question for Texas now becomes, How many wins can it expect out of its talent and its schedule? Remember, the Longhorns were 3-0 last season before going 2-7 down the stretch.

This, as the players and coaches have constantly reminded themselves, is a new season. That is an easy mantra to embrace while winning. But when that first loss happens, whether it be at ISU, the Red River Rivalry or further down the road, it becomes more important to not fall into the here-we-go-again mentality.

"We try not to think about last year," defensive ends coach Oscar Giles said. "This is a new year, a new team and we are going brick by brick. It's not one of these, 'Oh, you remember last year.'

"It's a new team, basically a new staff, so we are trying to set our own standard here. We talked about how we didn't want to look at the championship back in 2005. We want to build brick by brick, and it's important for us to do that."

[+] EnlargeIowa State Cyclone fans
David K Purdy/Getty ImagesThe Longhorns know they will have to rely on fundamentals against hostile crowds.
OK, so how many of those bricks have to be stacked correctly for this to be a successful season? Eight? Nine? Does anyone dare say 10?

And, conversely, is that possible?

The schedule does set up in such a manner that it could be possible to at least catch a glimpse of double-digit wins, particularly as it pertains to the bye weeks.

This is a young Texas team. While their bodies do not have the miles on them that the seniors might have, they also do not have the same muscle mass or mental experience of grinding it out for weeks on end.

So now there is a week to mend. It is also a week to teach, which is crucial for a team with 18 true freshmen playing.

"It is back to fundamental drills," Giles said of the bye week.

"Our thing right now is working on fundamentals, getting better and getting good at what we need to get good at," added defensive tackles coach Bo Davis.

Texas has to get good pretty fast, as two of the next three opponents are in the top 10 -- No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 8 Oklahoma State. And the other opponent, Iowa State, beat Texas at Texas last season.

A missed tackle, a busted assignment, a bad throw or a bad break here or there, and that 3-0 start Brown trumpeted after UCLA could turn to 3-3.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation.

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