AUSTIN (AP) — Texas has spent half the season fighting to shake off the recent years of failure with an underdog’s attitude to beat all doubters.
The result has been a five-game win streak and a rise to No. 9, the Longhorns’ highest ranking this late in the season since 2010. They’ve climbed back to the top of the Big 12, but in the process lost their role as underdog — likely for the rest of the season.
Their challenge now is how to keep that edge as the Longhorns (5-1, 3-0 Big 12) head into Saturday’s matchup against Baylor (4-2, 2-1) just a week after a huge win over archrival Oklahoma.
Sam Ehlinger #11 of the Texas Longhorns smiles as he runs into the endzone for a touchdown against the Oklahoma Sooners in the second quarter of the 2018 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 6, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
“Winning is addicting, and so it feels good. I like this kind of addiction,” Texas senior defensive end Charles Omenihu said.
It’s a new feeling for this group of Longhorns after three straight losing seasons from 2014-2016 and a 7-6 finish last year. Win Saturday and the Longhorns are bowl-eligible. In mid-October. That hasn’t happened since 2009.
“We understand what’s at stake this week, and every step we take throughout the season makes the next week that much more important,” second-year Texas coach Tom Herman said. “I liked the way the guys carried themselves in the locker room.”
Baylor also looks like a program on the rise under second-year coach Matt Rhule. The Bears were 1-11 last season in the first year of his rebuilding project. An upset win Saturday would be a big leap for a program trying to get back to Big 12 contender status. Baylor has lost three in a row to Texas.
“I told them all the time in camp how special I think they are. I said, ‘You’re believing in what we’re doing, you’re doing it day-in and day-out, without any evidence. It’s just faith right now. And when you start to win, you’ll say it’s all worth it,'” Rhule said.
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