Longhorns show new attitude in Charlie Strong's debut
AUG 31, 2014 1:26a ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas won as expected in coach Charlie Strong's debut, but the Longhorns still have a long way to go before they can say they've "Put the T back in Texas."
A strong defensive performance was the highlight of a 38-7 win over North Texas on Saturday night, holding the Mean Green to 94 yards of total offense and intercepting four passes.
"We're nowhere near where we should be but this is a good measuring stick and great way to start your season off the right way," Strong said.
It was a breath of fresh air for the fans in Austin after the Longhorns struggled to stop opponents the last few years of the Mack Brown era.
Offensively, Texas still has some work to do, but the return of running back Johnathan Gray was a good start.
Gray, who suffered season-ending Achilles injury last November, rushed for 84 yards on 16 carries Saturday, most of which came on a 42-yard burst through the UNT defense in the second quarter.
A healthy Gray wasn't the only change in the locker room. The players have bought into what their new coach has been preaching all summer about caring more about the team.
"It wasn't so much that we didn't care, it's just guys got complacent." Gray said. "Coach Strong came in and changed all that. We became more focused and guys started to pick up their jobs and understand what they need to do to help this ball club win. That's what we're doing now and developing good chemistry with the team."
Quarterback David Ash quietly got the job done with 190 yards passing and only one touchdown. But it wasn't because Strong was saving anything special for BYU or UCLA in the coming weeks.
"We don't ever hold anything back now," Strong said. "We're not that good. We're not a team that just walks out there like we got something stored away. There's nothing stored away."
Strong has spent the offseason working to change the attitude of the players, and he was pleased with the results after the season opener.
"Nine months ago, I asked them, I said 'nine months ago, I walked in and saw a team that had no identity. I thought I saw a team that was all individuals, a team that just really didn't care about nothing, didn't care about themselves or who they represented and had no pride.'
"Then I asked them, I said, 'what we're going to ask you to do; you guys are answering the bell and we asked you to put the T back into Texas.' Then said, we will work harder in preseason camp than we ever worked before, and it was a challenge and they answered the challenge."