BEVO BEAT Football

The Whys of Texas: Longhorns fans keeping calm in wake of season-opening loss? Nah.

Posted September 4th, 2018

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The Longhorns wanted to win so badly, they just tried too hard in the season-opening loss to the Maryland Terrapins.

At least, that was coach Tom Herman’s explanation on Monday about what happened in the 34-29 decision at FedEx Field.

“Although the outcome is similar to last year’s opener, this one feels much different,” Herman said, “and the reason for it is because the reason we played so poorly, in my opinion, is actually a good reason. Because of how close this team has become, how badly they wanted to perform for each other, for their coaches.”

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Some fans clearly had other thoughts. As usual, don your hazmat suit before pressing forward into this week’s Whys of Texas mailbag.

Well, after continually announcing to my wife, to her irritation a countdown (6 months, 3 months, 1 month, 24 hours …) to my beloved Longhorns first game of the season, my concerns came to fruition. I was anxious for the first minutes of the game to see if Tom Herman was really delivering as all the hype indicated or if the still deep disappointment. 

Didn’t take long to realize the same ol’ story. Vanilla mediocre offense and a team that is OK with losing! I can remember a time when losing was not acceptable and not expected. That is not UT Football any more. I would love to see how Nick Saban would have coached this team. He probably would have had to be hospitalized that afternoon from a stroke or murder!! 

I am not convinced we can beat Tulsa. It is all fine and good that many can dead lift a car or leap 40″ vertically but can they play like they are pissed off and don’t like losing! Thanks.

— Terry, via email

Terry’s email sums up a great many of those that flooded my inbox after Saturday’s debacle. Many have expletives, which is fine with me. Not so good in a family newspaper … website? Whatever it is we are these days.

I was struck with some of the GIFs that were floating around on Twitter over the weekend about Saban. No, I’m not talking about his post-game meltdown with an ESPN reporter; Saban later apologized. Did you see the GIF where Saban was going crazy over a player’s mistake in the second half as Alabama was up by 30 points or so? He was probably not suggesting that Tide player go read “Of Mice and Men.”

Texas coach Tom Herman argues a call against Maryland at FedEx Fiel, in Landover, Md., on Sept. 1 , 2018. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Tom Herman’s coaching ability was suspect after the first Maryland loss, and now, after the second loss, Herman is doubly suspect. Apparently he cannot motivate his players to play for something — either for him, the team, the fans, a Big 12 Championship nor the storied history of Texas football. Texas portrays a collection of players but they are not a team. 

My ranking of Herman is that he’s a dud! He says all the right things, seems bright, but simply cannot get results out of the players he has. Sad but the fork UT has taken seems to be leading to no return to football prominence within the next 5 years (unless the Pixie dust is really effective).

— J.D., via email

Let’s be clear about one thing. Herman is not on the hot seat, nor should he. That’s not even a realistic talking point until 2019. We’re 14 games into his tenure. Granted, he’s 7-7, but I’m going to credit Statesman colleague Danny Davis with this observation. Think about the roster. Herman presides over a program with upperclassmen who have never won big at this level. The 2017 recruiting class was ranked 25th nationally; nothing to gloat about. The 2018 class was third, so the tide is turning on that front. Texas bounced back in the second game last season. Yes, the coaches are responsible for wins and losses, but these players have to take accountability at some point. Let’s see what happens this week.

With his reported Mensa-level intelligence, perhaps Tom Herman should have gone into academics rather than coaching college football.  His reputed intellect certainly isn’t manifesting itself in the performance of his football team.  Then again, the nation’s very best professors don’t make $5 million/year, as obviously do some very mediocre D1 football coaches.

— Newt, via email

In case anyone missed the Monday literary reference, here’s what Herman said about “Of Mice and Men.”

“You know, I told Gary Johnson, yesterday we were talking about it, and he had never read ‘Of Mice and Men.’ I told him he needs to read ‘Of Mice and Men.’ It was kind of Lennie with the rabbit and with George, right; that Lennie wanted so badly to touch the rabbit and play with the rabbit, and he squeezed it so hard, he killed the rabbit.

“To me, I know that seems maybe out there a little bit, but I think that’s what the first quarter was,” the coach continued. “We wanted it so badly that we got in our own way quite a bit, and that’s correctable. That also means that when you suffer a setback like the one that we did, your locker room is still very strong, and everybody still believes in what we have spent the last year-and-a-half creating and building here.”

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) walks back into the locker room after losing to Maryland 34-29 in the NCAA college football game, at FedEx Field, in Landover, Md., on Saturday, Sept. 1 , 2018. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Give Away Sam strikes again, this time the Maryland game. Tom Herman reminded us that we are what our record says we are. Sam Ehlinger is a 2-5 quarterback, time to move on to anyone else who gives us a chance late in games, otherwise you run the risk that he gives away Tom’s job too.

— Juan, via email

There are no quick throws to receivers before breaks just throw it up plays Sam holds ball way too long can’t read progressions

— Will, via email

Better than 2017???  Not Sam E.  I saw no improvement. I liked Ingram but after his good runs, he was taken out of game.

— Frances, via email

On Tuesday, several players indicated that Ehlinger knew the Maryland game was a major blown opportunity. “He’s one of the biggest competitors I’ve ever met,” left tackle Calvin Anderson said. “He’s probably taking this harder than anyone affiliated with this program.” Fans will dwell on his two late turnovers, but there were positive signs. I thought Ehlinger stayed in the pocket more than he did last year. That shows a willingness to let plays develop and not take off and run. He took only one sack, which indicates a certain level of solid protection. Herman said he was pleased with Ehlinger’s performance overall, and that’s why he’s not going to make a change this week. Frankly, I think that would show panic and be more detrimental to Ehlinger’s long-term development than anything else.

If you’re going to throw the ball 40 times, what is your reason for not using Shane. That last pass was so incredibly bad, that a description or analogy does not readily come to mind.

— Nat, via email

Honestly, I wasn’t really sure who Ehlinger was targeting on the final interception. Was it supposed to be Lil’Jordan Humphrey or Collin Johnson? Obviously, Ehlinger was going for Humphrey, but it was a bad throw. As for not playing Buechele, Herman said on Monday, “We made a decision.” And that was they believe Ehlinger gives the Horns the best chance to win. We’ll see how things progress going forward.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer reacts on the sideline during overtime of the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Big OSU fan here. Just wondering if Herman has gotten any local blowback re: the Zach Smith fiasco in C’bus? Herman’s name pops up occasionally in articles here. Bucknuts loved Tom Herman during his tenure at OSU. If Meyer goes after this year, and I believe he will, many would love to have him back. Have no idea how Maryland, of all teams, can defeat Texas two years in a row, though. I imagine Horn fans are going out of their mind about now. Beck? Well….that’s another story. 

— Mike (from Port Clinton, Ohio), via email

My Twitter following has skyrocketed since the first story broke tying Herman to Urban Meyer’s troubles at Ohio State. A lot of them have scarlet and grey colors in their avatars. Make of that what you wish. But UT officials were largely nonplussed about the Ohio State story. Based on what we’ve heard so far, there’s been nothing that will land him in any sort of trouble at Texas. Again, based what we’ve heard so far. It appears to me that everyone in Columbus is totally focused on shifting the focus away from the real story about Urban Meyer and Zach Smith, consequences be damned.

The simple question I have is where is this great OC mind we supposedly hired? Outside of some flashes last year, I’m still trying to understand where this savant supposedly is.  Our offense SUCKS on many levels, looks confused, blocking schemes are poor, play calling questionable, and this against MARYLAND. Very sad to see.

— Sandy, via email

Herman has gone out of his way to downplay or avoid questions about offensive coordinator Tim Beck, who also coaches quarterbacks. I do wonder if Herman either took over play-calling duties midway through the second quarter against the Terps. Orangebloods reported that Herman did take over play-calling duties at that time, or at least got heavily involved. Most head coaches can throw their offensive or defensive coordinator to the wolves (i.e. fan base) when things go bad. Charlie Strong did that a few times. But Herman can’t, at least not with Beck. Herman has made it clear the offensive buck stops with him. Herman has burned his Get Out of Jail Free card as far as Beck is concerned. I wouldn’t expect any staff changes of any kind until the offseason.

Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck works with QB Sam Ehlinger during their first open practice to the News media at Frank Denius Fields on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We need to start scheduling more directional (or formerly directional schools).  We could be 1-5 or 2-4 at the halfway point this year.

— David, via email

Texas will open the 2019 season against Louisiana Tech before hosting LSU and then traveling to Rice. I’m guessing that most fans will be OK with that kind of opener given what’s happened the last two years.

Watching the Sooners game now, Texas Longhorn Football is out of excuses they are just Terrible. The athleticism is just not there for Longhorn football. I don’t see Herman turning this wreck around. Texas has a “institutional” problem. Brown, Strong and now Herman and NO improvement!!!!

— Jake, via email

Did anyone see those videos with Oklahoma freshman quarterback Kyler Murray? Whoa. I’ve said this many times and know it to be true. The Big 12 needs Texas and Oklahoma to be good together. That’s the only way this league has real strength on a national stage. No offense, TCU or West Virginia.

It seems simply that the Longhorns don’t play very well. Also, Herman hasn’t helped them overcome the stigma of the previous opening loss to Maryland. I wonder if they’re inept or just unlucky. Can this team beat Tulsa?

— Richard, via email

Tulsa opened as a 22-point underdog. But Kansas was a two-touchdown underdog in 2016, Maryland was a two-touchdown dog last weekend …

Lots of Longhorns fans at the game and shocked how bad the horns played — running game and both sides of Texas line were beat up by 3-star recruits of Maryland and by the worse defense in Big 10. Geez. I think another long year ahead.

— Butch, via email

How about Maryland freshman Jashaun Jones, a three-star recruit. On his first three collegiate touches, he had a 28-yard touchdown run, caught a 65-yard touchdown pass and then threw a 20-yard score. Those three helped the Terps take a 24-7 lead.

One thing I never saw mentioned anywhere after that loss was how early in the game a Texas defender dropped a pick. … The next play Maryland came back with a touchdown pass.

— Thomas, via email

There’s no question that Kris Boyd’s dropped interception — one that hit him square on the hands — was a killer. The next play, Jones caught the 65-yard touchdown pass when Brandon Jones ran up the middle on a safety blitz and didn’t get to the quarterback.

Texas cornerback Kris Boyd (2) sits in the tunnel during the rain delay at Fedex Field on September 1, 2018, in Landover, Md. Michael A. McCoy/ for American-Statesman

Why can’t Texas recruit an elite QB? At this point, I’m not too sure Tom Herman is going to be “all that.” He seemed to be chaffing under the collar about a few questions at the post-game press conference. And the team’s quotes, collectively, seemed to indicate the loss to Maryland was no big deal and nuthin’ to be alarmed about. Frankly, I didn’t see much in the way of second year improvements. I strongly suspect that the Horns’ first half of the season is going to be brutal.

— William, via email

I’m not ready to dive into the “why can’t Texas recruit elite quarterbacks” questions yet. That’s been an issue going on, what?, eight years now? I saw enough glimpses of third-stringer Cam Rising during training camp that I’m intrigued. With these new NCAA freshman redshirt rules, I expect to see him at some point this season.

Did you see last year’s Texas Tech game? That game should go down as The Worst Loss in the history of Longhorn football. We had that game in the bag and lost the game due to coaching stupidity. Remember, we had the lead late in the 4th quarter and the ball near midfield. It was 3rd and 2 and Texas Tech had no timeouts. There was around 2 minutes remaining.

Conventional 7th Grade Coaching Theory would have the Big QB take the snap from under the Center and run a Quarterback Sneak or hand the ball to your Biggest Running Back. If you do not make the first down you run the clock down and punt the ball.

— Mark, via email

Mark has issues with the story we ran as part of our season preview package. I looked at the top 10 losses in the last 50 games while Danny Davis examined the top 10 wins. In all honesty, Danny had trouble coming up with 10 whereas I had to whittle down the list and leave some off. That included leaving off the 2015 Halloween loss to Iowa State. That night, Texas did not cross the Iowa State 47-yard line until the second half. Oof.

Have a question for the Whys of Texas? Contact Brian Davis at bdavis@statesman.com.

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