Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Herman, fans are wondering which Texas team shows up these final four games

Posted November 4th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • Is Tom Herman’s club a solid team that has been held back by myriad injuries to a decimated secondary or do three straight weeks of subpar play in games against Oklahoma, Kansas and TCU better define a 5-3 Texas team?
  • “Awesome, awesome. Yesterday’s spirits were great. There is no confidence shaken whatsoever,” he said. “They all realize what they can be.”
  • Even so, a lineup of Kansas State, road games with Iowa State and Baylor and a home finale against Texas Tech — four teams that are a collective 22-10, and three of them are among the top five in the Big 12 standings — is challenging enough that it’s not out of the question that Texas could lose two or even three of those games.  

Last we saw the Texas football team, we observed a club pretty much in disarray. The Longhorns were their own worst enemy in Fort Worth, committing four turnovers, failing to capitalize on three possessions in TCU territory and enduring Sam Ehlinger’s worst game of the year.

In the month of September, Texas blew out a decent Louisiana Tech team and overmatched Rice, survived an offensive slugfest with Oklahoma State and almost scared the national ranking out of LSU.

So which is it?

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Is Tom Herman’s club a solid team that has been held back by myriad injuries to a decimated secondary? Or do three straight sub-par efforts in games against Oklahoma, Kansas and TCU better define a 5-3 Texas team?

No idea.

The fans don’t really know.

Chris Del Conte doesn’t know.

Herman doesn’t know.

Texas Longhorns wide receiver Collin Johnson (9) pulls down the ball as he looks for room to run against TCU Horned Frogs safety Vernon Scott (26) during an NCAA college football game at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Consequently, this week’s opponent, ascending Kansas State, may be equally confounded by Texas and its box of chocolates. You just don’t know what you’re going to get because the local 11 can play up to or down to the competition although it sure feels like a 7-5 team that has lost its way and all of its momentum.

The recent decommitments from a pair of four-star cornerbacks and transfer announcements of wide receiver Jordan Pouncey and four-star offensive tackle Javonne Shepherd made Herman’s week all the worse.

Texas coach Tom Herman, right, watches a replay during the second half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Kansas in Austin, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

This writer, in his question about the current climate of the team, mistakenly referred to those lackluster showings against Oklahoma, TCU and in a “close loss to Kansas,” to which Herman corrected and excused it as “a Freudian slip.”

There’ve been lots of slips lately, but none by any player named Freud.

Herman, at least, speaks to his players’ bold mindset after a week of practice during the open date.

“Awesome, awesome. Yesterday’s spirits were great. There is no confidence shaken whatsoever,” he said. “They all realize what they can be.”

If they do, they’d better show it soon in a difficult, four-game stretch to end the regular season. Herman insisted in his one-game-at-a-time mentality that he has no idea who’s next on the schedule after the Wildcats. No one bought it. No wiseacre cracked that the Longhorns meet Alabama in two weeks just to get a rise out of the coach, but it was tempting. 

Even so, a lineup of Kansas State, road games with Iowa State and Baylor and a home finale against Texas Tech — four teams that are a collective 22-10, and three of them are among the top five in the Big 12 standings — is challenging enough that it’s not out of the question that Texas could lose two or even three of those.  

The Wildcats demolished the same Jayhawks team that gave Texas fits and knocked off a Top 10 Sooners team. Texas has its work cut out for it and will have to upgrade its running game and try to at least make some offenses one-dimensional.

Remember, the Longhorns have to get past their 0-1 recent result and realize they aren’t bowl-eligible yet.

“No one’s oblivious to what’s in front of us,” Herman said. “Our only long-term goal is to be competing to be in the mix for a conference championship in November and December. It’s still out there. Now we left a margin of error that is very slim, but that’s OK.”

Herman said the choice left for the Longhorns is very clear-cut.

“You’re on the ropes,” Herman said. “You can fight your way off the ropes or tell your trainer to throw in the towel. From all accounts, everybody is fighting their way off the ropes, and I feel good about the last week and a half.” 

The guess is there’s still plenty of fight left in the Longhorns, but also lots to fix. 

Just nobody knows if they’ll get it done by December.

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