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Accountability and Consistency Key For Longhorns Following Bye Week

Texas players are starting to step up as leaders and command respect following the bye week

Texas running back Roschon Johnson was blunt when asked about the troubles on the offensive line. He isn't allowing one group to be blamed for the inconsistencies that the team has shown as a whole in the past two weeks. 

"Our focus is to finishing," Johnson said Tuesday. "That just for the offense as a whole and not just the o-line." 

Johnson has been described as a leader amongst his Texas (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) teammates and Texas coach Steve Sarkisian. Its that type of leadership that has been put under the microscope during the Longhorns' two-game losing streak. 

Texas fell flat in the Cotton Bowl against Caleb Williams and Oklahoma's offense. Williams, who at the time played a handful of college snaps, led the Sooners on seven scoring drives to take the lead in the closing second and win the Red River Showdown. 

The following week, Texas started hot, stalled, and crashed against then-No. 12 Oklahoma State at home. The Longhorns tallied seven points in the final 30 minutes while quarterback Casey Thompson threw a pair of interceptions, including one returned for an 85-yard touchdown.

The Horns' locker room took that as a wake-up call. Those who were considered the faces of the organization were asked to step up during the bye week to set an example. 

"Leaders are stepping up," cornerback Josh Thompson said. "Guys like Ro (Johnson), Derek Kirksetter, Casey (Thompson). Everyone is stepping up." 

Players said the week away from live-action was used to help clear their heads and hit the reset button on the season. With five games remaining, the Longhorns can still fight for a shot a perhaps a chance to play in the Big 12 Championship. 

It's not a hard formula when broken down. Texas must win out and Oklahoma State must drop two more games. The Pokes close out the season perhaps on upset alert against West Virginia and TCU before taking on the Sooners at home for the Bedlam series. 

Texas begins its quest to go undefeated in the second half of conference play with a road trip to Waco against No. 18 Baylor (6-1, 3-1 Big 12). It's a game that the Horns should feel comfortable in pulling out a victory based on how the offense has started games. 

Then again, they felt comfortable against both schools from Oklahoma for the first 30 minutes. Look at what happened there. 

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"No one was sulking or complaining," Johnson said of players at practice. "We have a good mindset going forward." 

For Texas to bounce back, they must learn to finish games. Thompson said that during practice, the team will get a break, known as a "halftime" to recuperate. That now is only two minutes, and players are channeling the sense of urgency, creating a quick tempo to take the field and finish strong. 

Practice is becoming harder, but it's a must for the players to understand how important is to close games on a positive note. In both losses, the tempo fell flat. Texas allowed over 600 yards of offense combined in the second half while also being outscored 54-17. 

Sarkisian said on Monday that one of the primary reasons for the team's failures was its focus. That has been a point of emphasis during the bye week and the start of game week prep for the Bears. 

Johnson said that the goals have not changed despite having three losses on the record. Instead, the attention has turned toward a short-term mentality in hopes of finding consistency. 

Win today at practice. Win Saturday at McLane Stadium. The rest? 

That comes starting next Monday, followed by a similar formula until December. 

Said Johnson: "I have to focus on each day and what I can do to critique myself at practice so I can go out and put my best foot forward on game days. Ultimately for us as a team, all we can do is take it week by week." 

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