BEVO BEAT Football

The Whys of Texas: Longhorns are trying to block out the tweets, distractions from 1-1 start

Texas coach Tom Herman deleted Twitter from his phone, he'd probably encourage fans to do the same

Posted September 11th, 2018

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Texas coach Tom Herman said he deleted “that Twitter deal” off his cell phone when the season began. The last activity on his official account was Aug. 28.

Deleting Twitter, something that former coach Charlie Strong once said contributes to the “downfall of society,” may be the best move Herman’s made so far this season.

Twitter may as well be the Wild West.

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Receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey tweeted out a poem he wrote for a class and got nothing but digital grief. Running back Toniel Carter vented on Twitter last Saturday after the win over Tulsa about his lack of playing time. He had to delete it.

At least the Horns aren’t tweeting during games anymore. In 2015, cornerback Kris Boyd, then a freshman, was on Twitter at halftime during a blowout loss to TCU. He retweeted a Texas A&M fan’s plea for him to transfer. Two days later, teammates were bickering at each other on Twitter.

Twitter and all other forms of social media haven’t exactly been safe spaces for the Longhorns the last two weeks. That’s why Herman deleted the app, and he’d probably advise every one of his charges to do the same.

“I think that Jason Witten had a great article on ESPN that we read or that the team read together about that can be a bit toxic in the locker room if we’re caring about our mentions and not our teammates,” Herman said. “So I think our guys have done a really, really good job of blocking out all of the noise.”

Witten’s editorial in late July cut straight to the point. The most concerning thing about social media?, the former Cowboys tight end wrote. “Watching a really talented player corrupt his mind and confidence by reading all the critiques from anonymous football experts around the world. Negative social media can ruin a player. Reading your mentions? It’s poison.”

And so it goes this week with the Longhorns, who are 1-1 heading into Saturday’s date with No. 22 USC.

“I think our guys have done a really, really good job of blocking out all of the noise,” Herman said. “They have also done a good job of understanding what it does take to win.”

On to this week’s mailbag…

You think the reason Texas can’t produce is because it’s loaded with a bunch of pampered little candy a— who still believe the hype from their high school press clippings? Maybe because they care more about the so-called music they have to listen to to get motivated or the they’re overly concerned about tweeting messages about not playing and/or how bad they feel because they didn’t play well? After all, an excuse is just an excuse and this is a sorry excuse of a football team and a bigger excuse for a coach.

— Mickey, via email

If anyone knows the answer as to why Texas hasn’t been Texas this decade, please forward me their contact info. School officials should never apologize for giving their players the best — be it the best lockers, best facilities, best food, whatever. My problem stems from the fact that accountability is a two-way street. Playing at Texas comes with certain responsibility and accountability. If you don’t want either of those, then there are plenty of FCS schools that would love to have you.

Players were “trying too hard wanting to be perfect” against Maryland? The players “tensed up” because Herman got on to them at halftime of the Tulsa game? That’s stuff straight out of “The Twilight Zone.”

Any team that starts 16 upperclassmen, like Texas did against Tulsa, should be ready to go. They should be able to handle some colorful language from the coaching staff. Breaking news here, gang: Yes, the coaches sometimes use profanity. Show me a coaching staff at the college or professional level that doesn’t, and I’ll bet the farm that team isn’t very good.

Bottom line: The Longhorns need to play better this week. And the week after, and the week after that.

Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte watches the video board during an NCAA college football game between Texas and Tulsa in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Saturday night was “A Tale of Two Cities.” In College Station, a coach in his second game thought they should have won the game. They took one of the top-3 teams in the country to the wire. Kellen Mond looked like a big-time college QB in the face of a very good defense. They threw the ball DOWN THE FIELD. Aggie fans got what they paid for and walked out excited about the future. The atmosphere was electric.

Meanwhile in Austin, the Horns didn’t play well because, once again, Coach Mensa yelled at them at halftime? A good team beats Tulsa by 40. The Horns lost the second half. Ehlinger actually had a good game with good numbers, but the number of lateral passes and short passes is maddening. This offense looks stone age compared to the Aggies. It looks the same as a year ago. Texas fans left looking like their dog died.

— Mark, via email

First off, I said this on our Longhorn Confidential podcast on Monday, but I thought Jimbo Fisher was a huge winner last weekend even though A&M lost. (That’s also a quick plug for our new audio offering, natch.) As for Texas, fans were OK with UT’s 1-1 start last season because the Horns blew out San Jose State in week two, 56-0. This year, there are more jitters than anything else. Is this now a six-, seven- or eight-win team? Or is more possible? The answer can be found in your optimism. As for the short passes, Ehlinger was 7 for 7 on the 13-play drive that helped UT take a 14-point lead. That included three check-downs, Ehlinger said. He was happy with moving the chains and getting points.

I don’t know about dogs, but yes, it did look like the UT players had seen a ghost while walking out of Royal-Memorial Stadium.

I played for Texas in 1968 through ’70, and we won 30 in a row and knew a few things about winning. Herman is sadly going in the wrong direction. If you want to have FUN, go play for Austin College, not UT. At UT it’s like the military, you train hard, you are disciplined, you are proud, you serve the Longhorn Nation, you have a band of brothers, and you have commanding officers you are terrified of. I guarantee it’s that way at Alabama. Thanks.

Dr. Michael Dean, via email

I can only imagine what other Texas exes who played for Darrell Royal thought upon hearing that players tightened up after a halftime tounge lashing. Every successful coach I’ve ever studied or covered as a journalist had two distinct qualities — players either feared them or respected them. Or both. It’s quite possible this group wants to be perfect for Herman and his staff, so maybe they do play tight. Last I checked, this game was fun. When you’ve been average for this long, you simply don’t know how to win. That is Herman’s challenge.

Texas head coach Tom Herman before an NCAA football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Tom Herman is one of the highest-paid Public employees in the state, fans have a right to be pissed. Things are not going to change until he starts delivering and from what we’ve seen he can’t deliver.

— Nathaniel, via Facebook

Do you think ’Bama fans would be OK with Saban being a crusty person if he were 8-7?

— Felipe, via Facebook

If Saban had the personality of Don Rickles, but won 11 games plus every year, think that would be an issue?

— Clayton, via Facebook

At Monday’s press conference, Herman was asked about the perception that he’s arrogant.

“I love our fans,” Herman said. “Mack Brown told me when I got the job that this can be the greatest job in America because there’s tens of millions of people who care very passionately about what happens with their Longhorn football team, and it can be one that’s difficult too for the exact same reason, because there’s tens of millions of people.

“But at the end of the day, the expectations that are put on us from the outside are never going to meet or exceed the expectations that we put on ourselves. And so yeah, I love our fans, absolutely love them and I hope they continue to stay as passionate about Texas football as they have been.”

In non-related UT news, I loved me some Don Rickles.

You know I had suggested last week, based on our performance, that I was concerned Tulsa might beat us!? If Tulsa had made the field goals, they should have and if their receivers had made the catches, they should have, that likely would have been the outcome. We were lucky, not good. I am concerned whether we can get 6 wins this year? Not what I expected.

— Terry, via email

Tulsa missed three field goals and dropped two passes in the end zone that would’ve been touchdowns. A three-touchdown underdog from a private commuter school went home believing it should have beaten the University of Texas. Make of that what you wish.

Unfortunately, there now exists a culture of mediocrity at Texas. Players are not aware of the fact that just because they made it to Texas, doesn’t mean they have made it at Texas. I remember watching this team thrash opponents like Maryland and Tulsa. Now all I see is Texas doing just enough. There is very little urgency and intensity in their play compared to Texas teams of the past.

— Thomas, via Facebook

There’s no doubt in my mind that Herman gets no quarter from the fan base because of Brown’s and Strong’s faults. These fans are simply tired of all the mediocrity, the blandness, the blah, whatever word you like (or in this case, don’t). Texas is five games over .500 this decade. That’s about as meh as it comes. Herman didn’t fully create this problem, but it’s now his to solve. 

Texas Longhorns running back Keaontay Ingram (26) looks for room to run in the first half of the game against Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the NCAA college football game, at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, in Austin, Texas Saturday, Sept. 8 , 2018 RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As for Keaontay Ingram, man, that sucks. That young man is a bright spot in Texas Offense

— Jason, via Facebook

It’s a bad-news, good-news thing with the freshman from Carthage. Ingram suffered a knee injury late against Tulsa and is doubtful this week against USC. But Herman said an MRI showed no major damage to his knee ligaments, and he’s likely to return quickly from what’s being called a “deep bone bruise.” There’s no doubt Ingram is a positive ray of light for this offense. He’s got 101 yards on 16 carries (6.3 average) and now has two touchdowns.

One Texas fan cheers during an NCAA football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Some perspective before the Longhorns kickoff (against Tulsa): We act like we are one of the top programs in the country… WE AREN’T! Actually, we aren’t even close. How arrogant! We aren’t even the best in our conference!  We are not on the same level as Oklahoma, Alabama, Ohio State, USC, etc… Oklahoma has 7 national championships, 11 Big12 titles… Texas has 4 national championships (some would argue, it’s actually 3) 3 Big12 championships (1 more than Baylor) Oklahoma has had 4 head coaches with 100+ wins!

Cornell has more national championships than Texas does! So does Illinois. In fact, there are 20+ programs with as many, or more national championships than Texas. Think about that… Texas is 23rd (?) on this list. We had great runs under Darrell Royal and Mack Brown! 30 YEARS APART! So, the reality is, Texas is a Top-25 program…ALWAYS has been.

I LOVE The Horns! So, of course, I want Texas to be great! I want them to be the best! I will keep cheering! Texas Fight!

— Jarrel, via email

I included Jarrel’s email for one simple reason. He’s just like most of you. Passionate but frustrated. Loyal to a fault. No matter what happens, he’ll eventually come around next week. That’s what fans do. If Texas can pull off a win against USC, this team will be 2-1 and let’s be honest here, that’s where most of you had them standing in the first place. Really think about last year’s progression. The defense got better as the season went on. After the USC game, two losses came boiled down to two bad plays by Ehlinger. That’s not the mark of an awful program. It’s the sign of one still figuring things out.

So no matter what happens this week, remember Texas has nine games left. Oh, and mind your manners on Twitter.

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

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