AUSTIN (AP) — Finally, Texas coach Tom Herman has some tangible evidence if he wants to declare his first season a success. The Longhorns are bowl eligible for the first time since 2014.
No more having to fall back on clichés about playing hard and being almost good enough to beat ranked teams. Texas finally beat a ranked opponent last week , pushing the Longhorns to 6-5 on the season. It was small step that could eventually prove to be huge for Herman and the entire program going forward.
Herman got the job at Texas because Charlie Strong had three straight losing seasons. Strong’s first 11 games mirrored Herman at this point, but after promising the program would not have another five-loss season, Strong had two more and was fired with a 16-21 record overall.
“Still a ton left to play for. I think our guys know that,” Herman said Monday ahead of Friday’s game against Texas Tech (5-6). “We’ve talked to the guys about leaving your legacy.”
Herman called reaching a bowl game the “minimum” standard for Texas. He now has to avoid the finish that hit Strong back in 2014 when the Longhorns got crushed in the regular-season finale and then the bowl game to finish 6-7, turning a promising season into a dud.
“They don’t want to be remembered as the senior class that went through the worst three-year stretch in the history of Texas football. They want to be remembered as the senior class that helped usher in a new way of doing things, a return to prominence,” Herman said.
Herman took a trip down bad-memory lane of just how rough things have been of late:
—Texas hasn’t won eight games in a season since 2013, and even that wasn’t good enough as coach Mack Brown was pushed out despite his team going into the final game with a chance to win the Big 12 title.
—Texas hasn’t finished the season on a three-game win streak since 2009.
—The Longhorns are 1-6 in their last senior tribute home finales.
Beat struggling Texas Tech on Friday and win the bowl game and the Longhorns will be 8-5 and clearly on an upward trend.
Linebacker Naashon Hughes is one of the few seniors still left from the team that played in a bowl game.
“I’ve seen a lot of change,” Hughes said. “”We’ve finally taken a step in the right direction and we want to keep in going, so that means we’ve got to keep working even harder.”
Herman said he doesn’t sense any letdown coming after qualifying for a bowl. He’s determined to make sure the program finishes above .500 this season.
“To finish 6-6, that’s average. We want to make this legacy, the jumping off point for a new chapter in Texas football, better than average,” Herman said.
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