Tom Herman’s second game-week press conference has come and gone.
As expected, the second-year Texas coach was peppered with the kind of questions you’d expect after his 23rd-ranked team fell on the road to a team coming off a 4-8 season that was playing without its suspended head coach:
- Should Shane Buechele see some snaps?
- Is Sam Ehlinger really the guy?
- What’s Ehlinger’s confidence level?
- If you say on Monday that Ehlinger felt like he didn’t need to force it on third down, then why did he tell us after the game on Saturday that he felt like he needed to take a chance?
- Why, after a whole offseason hearing about how important it is for Ehlinger to avoid those late-game turnovers that cost the Horns last year against USC, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, he seemed to make the same mistakes again?
- Why didn’t we see Keaontay Ingram, who had scored a touchdown and was averaging 6.3 yards per carry, in the second half?
- Why did Texas choose to go for 2 after drawing to within 24-22 late in the second quarter?
- And, asked by the Statesman’s Brian Davis: In many respects, is the issue now the same as it was on Day 1 when Herman arrived — that this team and this program just doesn’t know how to win.
Herman paused for a moment. Then he answered:
“I think we’re learning,” Herman said. “I think John (Bianco, UT’s sports information director), you told me, I think the University of Texas hasn’t won three straight games since 2013. So we’re learning how to win. Again, losses are unacceptable. Losses hurt really bad and this was like a funeral home around our building yesterday — and it should be. If it doesn’t matter, then you don’t care. And it matters very, very much to those kids in that locker room. I think going player to player and talking to guys that you trust on the team, you figure out that that’s real. They can taste it, and if you talk to a lot of veterans, they haven’t even tasted it before.”
(For the record, Texas strung three wins together last in 2014.)
“I don’t think it’s the same problem as when we first got here,” Herman continued. “Had we drove down and scored the game-winning touchdown in a two-minute drill, our plan ride home would’ve felt better, our food would’ve tasted a little bit better, but the problems that existed up until that drive still would’ve existed. The first-quarter slow start, the couple of turnovers there in the fourth quarter assuming you didn’t turn the ball over and scored the touchdown. So we still have a lot of issues to work through regardless of winning or losing, and I know that the guys are chomping at the bit to go do that. So to answer your original question, it’s a work in progress but I think we’re much closer to having that part down than when we first got here. Not the same problem.”
Still, there are problems nonetheless. Herman addressed some of them himself, including the slow start, the four straight three-and-outs in the first half, the turnovers and the penalties.
Here were other highlights:
On what Saturday’s loss means in the big picture: “All of our long-term goals are still ahead of us, and we told the guys that this one game will not define us. How we grow from it and respond to it will. So that’s the biggest challenge now, is growing and responding.”
On whether it’s time to put in Buechele: “No, I don’t think now’s the time to start doing that, I really don’t. I think then you start, you’re going to wind up in the same situation that you were in last year. We made a decision. Sam certainly didn’t play perfect, but nobody did. His errors certainly weren’t egregious enough to merit just dumping him on the depth chart. If you start doing that, you’re going to start riding a rollercoaster.”
On Ehlinger forcing things: “We told him while we watched video yesterday, yeah on third down, you don’t need to take that chance. Throw it away. Give us a chance on fourth down. And then no, I didn’t see — other than that one throw, yeah, he made a mistake; he played 70-something other snaps where he played really well and didn’t make a mistake. So I was pleased with his performance save for that one decision.”
On Ingram’s second-half disappearing act: “I think you’ll continue to see his role progress and increase, there’s no doubt in my mind. I think in a close game on the road, after an hour-long rain delay, I made the call. I said Stan, we’ve got a fifth-year senior that’s been in a lot of college football games and he’s running the ball well. I said we need experience here in the fourth quarter. That was why you didn’t see him in the fourth quarter.”
And, perhaps most important, where does Texas go from here?
“This is one game,” Herman said. “This is one game that doesn’t count in the Big 12 standings. There were a lot of reasons that went into why we lost. You address the why and you just be very honest with them. It’s not going to define us. It’s not. Week 1 will never define anybody. … How you grow from it and how you respond to it is going to be paramount. We’ve got 11 more of these guaranteed to us, 11 more one-game seasons.”
That second one-game season is this Saturday. Texas hosts Tulsa in the Longhorns’ home opener (7 p.m., Longhorn Network).
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