Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Tom Herman understands Texas fans’ anger, expectations

Posted October 22nd, 2019

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Story highlights
  • The Texas head coach struck the proper tone Monday afternoon when he said he totally understood why Longhorn Nation is up in arms after an excruciatingly close 50-48 win over three-touchdown underdog Kansas at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Some might say Herman had no choice.
  • The truth is, Todd Orlando’s seat can’t get any hotter because this defensive ineptitude has inexplicably been going on for two seasons. 
  • Secondly, it doesn’t make any sense sticking with the three-man front to stop teams like Oklahoma and Kansas that can run the ball effectively but also pass.

Tom Herman said Longhorn fans should be upset.

Not to worry.

They’re way ahead of him.

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That said, the Texas head coach struck the proper tone Monday when he said he totally understood why Longhorn Nation is up in arms after an excruciatingly close 50-48 win over three-touchdown underdog Kansas at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Some might say Herman had no choice. At least, he realized the obvious as the 5-2 Longhorns prepare for TCU.

He’s already buried under an avalanche of criticism for the defensive collapses, the missed tackles, the poor scheme, the lack of a good pass rush, the bad kickoff and punt returns, a fourth down decision here and there, and … 

Did we leave anything out? At least Herman had the good sense to acknowledge the shortcomings and fans’ level of anxiety.

The truth is, Todd Orlando’s seat can’t get any hotter because this defensive ineptitude has inexplicably been going on for two seasons. 

Texas ranks an abysmal 119th nationally in total defense. Only Kansas and Colorado are worse among Power Five teams. It is imperative that the embattled defensive coordinator shows drastic improvement before the end of the year or Herman will have major problems on his hands.

Secondly, it doesn’t make any sense sticking with the three-man front to stop teams like Oklahoma and Kansas that can run the ball effectively but also pass. The Sooners carved up the Longhorns for 276 yards on the ground, and the Jayhawks’ Pooka Williams ran circles around Texas for the majority of their 259 yards rushing.

It’s borderline amazing that Texas won one of those games and lost the other by only a touchdown. Giving up 1,080 yards in two games is no recipe for success.

The Longhorns’ pass defense ranks 126th among 130 teams. It has given up 18 touchdowns through the air, better than only six teams in the country. Those aren’t encouraging numbers. 

Wisconsin, Ohio State, Clemson and Michigan have allowed 19 passing touchdowns. Total.

Blind loyalty to both the defensive coordinator and the scheme could be fatal.

Herman has often cited the definition of insanity, and unfortunately it’s being played out on a weekly basis with awful defense.

So should fans be concerned or upset by the results?

“No, no, they should be,” Herman smartly said. “We have standards at the University of Texas that we need to play up to and we didn’t on that side of the ball.”

Herman fell back on the fact that Texas started all underclassmen on defense Saturday, save for junior nose tackle Ta’Quon Graham and senior safety Brandon Jones. And, yes, that’s a huge factor.

Of course, when Texas was preparing to play West Virginia on the road a few weeks ago one week after the losses of Caden Sterns, Jalen Green and Josh Thompson from the secondary, Herman literally said he had full confidence in their replacements and wasn’t “losing any sleep” over the prospects of not being fully healthy.

Now he’s looking a little sleepy.

“When you’re starting nine freshmen or sophomores on defense, and you turn the ball over twice in the fourth quarter where we turned it over, that’s not real good complementary football, too,” Herman said. “So although the numbers say we played really well offensively, I would argue that situationally we didn’t help our defense.”

So Herman’s technically suggesting critics crack on Sam Ehlinger and the offense, too. Kinda. Never mind the six touchdowns and pair of field goals that Cameron Dicker kicked.

The offense should do better than 48 points (two came on a blocked kick return)?

Is that really realistic? Can Ehlinger really do more than he already is? An average quarterback would have gotten Texas beat Saturday, probably even a better-than-average quarterback.

Putting such a burden on Ehlinger could well catch up with Texas in the remaining five games. The defense has to start carrying its weight.

“But none of us are OK or satisfied with that defensive performance just because we won the game,” Herman said. “Are we happy to win the game? Absolutely. And at the end of the year this one’s going to count just the same as all the other ones do. They don’t count them any different, but we expect to play much, much better especially defensively.”

The fans hopefully expect the same. As they simmer.

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