AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Tom Herman's first season at Texas started with a dud that had Longhorns fans fuming, and ended with an on-field shimmy that had them defending him.
Now, Herman looks to turn that shimmy into the full-blown Texas swagger that's been missing for so long.
At 7-6, there are signs it could be coming. At the very least, Herman's first team can be called a winner.
That's what made beating Missouri in the Texas Bowl so important. The Longhorns avoided a fourth consecutive losing season and Herman can legitimately say a rebuilding project is heading in the right direction.
"You can't overstate it." Herman said. "It's really important for these guys to call themselves winners."
That's a far different feeling from when Texas got thumped at home by Maryland in the season opener. And just a few weeks ago, Texas fans were wondering if Herman's locker room was in disarray after running back Chris Warren transferred and standout offensive lineman Connor Williams and Thorpe Award winner safety DeShon Elliott decided to skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft.
"I think tonight, coach Herman won the locker room, 100 percent," said linebacker Breckyn Hager said after Wednesday night's 33-16 victory over the Tigers.
"He now has our hearts as a team. These past three weeks, it really felt like a whole new team, a whole new atmosphere. We all bought in," Hager said. "It's like you hit the light switch and everything has changed. It's definitely up from here. I know I've said that before but for real this time. This was big time."
Texas brought in Herman after firing Charlie Strong following three straight losing seasons. The program is starved to return to contending for Big 12 championships — Longhorns fans will want national titles too, but first things first — and gave Herman a contract that guarantees him more than $25 million.
© 2018 Associated Press