Pardon me if I’m missing something, but it sure looks to me like the honeymoon period for second-year Texas Charlie Strong is gliding along without a hitch. Not even drawing arguably the game-deciding penalty that dropped the Texas Longhorns to 1-3 this season and 7-10 in his tenure in Austin.
In large part to bad coaching decisions and losing plays from his Longhorns, Strong’s young Horns lost to Oklahoma State Saturday in one of the most dysfunctional fourth periods in the history of the game. One boneheaded play, one boneheaded decision and one boneheaded penalty after another. But of the sixteen UT penalties, the 15 yard gift Strong’s unsportsmanlike penalty handed Cowboy kicker Ben Grogan was the most unnecessary, uncalled for and unacceptable.
BIZZARE EXPLANATION LAUGHED OFF BY MEDIA
Watching a replay of Strong’s Monday news conference in Austin was just as baffling as the bizarre series of things that happened down the stretch of the 30-27 UT loss. It was well into the news conference before Strong’s penalty was even brought up. As part of a non-challenging two-part question, Strong was asked what he said to the official to draw the penalty. Strong chose the path of least resistance. He said, “I don’t remember what I said,” which was met with a delayed flood of laughter from the media.
STRONG TREATED DIFFERENTLY THAN MANY
I was stunned on a number of levels. Some of the best media in the business were in that room, but I don’t understand why this question wouldn’t have been a much bigger priority. There’s no doubt how probing the questions would be if a Bob Stoops or Nick Saban were in that position. And there’s no question that other nationally respected coaches would take full responsibility. And would have done so before being asked a single question in the post-game news conference after the game on Saturday.
(NOTE: I am aware of the comment from Strong later in the session with the media where he said, "I have to stay in control. I got upset over a call and shouldn't. That just threw me over top. I can't lose my composure.” But the magnitude of the penalty demands that it’s the first thing the coach addresses with the media after the game and is a serious topic in the Monday gathering as well. )
Lack of composure in crunch time is a horrible example to set for a young team looking to the head coach that recruited them and is the man they’re depending on to get them out of this nightmarish hole. Though out-played, Texas was in position to win what would have been an uplifting Big 12 opener.
41-YARD FIELD GOAL INSTEAD OF 56-YARDER
Clearly, Texas got the bad end of multiple calls. But that’s no excuse to put yourself in a position to suffer a late-game 15 yards that were extremely hard to come by and valuable down the stretch Saturday night. OSU was struggling to move the ball. Texas had been assessed a pass interference penalty, followed by a phantom defensive holding penalty. Strong’s over-the-top verbiage tacked 15 more critically important yards onto the call. That was all Ben Grogan needed to make the kick a reasonable 41 yards to tie the game with 1:33 to play. Grogan’s second field goal would be the game-winner, but it was Strong’s bad judgement that led to Texas’ third loss in four games.
I’M ALL IN WITH CHARLIE, BUT….
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Charlie Strong, believe he’s a good man, a good coach and will survive this. I expect Texas to return under Strong. I also expect TCU to send them to a 1-4 record before the Red River Shootout a week from Saturday. And it won’t surprise me one bit if Texas gives Oklahoma all it wants. Maybe more.
But the almost-laughable comedy of errors that dominated the fourth quarter of the OSU-Texas game was overshadowed by Strong’s penalty. And I guess it’s only fitting that the (non) reaction to that penalty from Strong and the media be hard to fathom as well.