Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: A Herman blowup and a failed comeback equals growing pains in Stillwater

Posted October 28th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Texas lost 38-35 at Oklahoma State, dropping to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12.
  • Coach Tom Herman charged the field after defensive end Breckyn Hager was involved in a brief scrum as Oklahoma was taking a knee to run out the clock.
  • The Horns host West Virginia at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

STILLWATER, Okla. — So long, Top 10.

It was nice knowing you.

Those CFP dreams? Fun while it lasted.

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The enduring image of Texas’ three-week stay among the national elite came with its fate all but sealed at a raucous Boone Pickens Stadium Saturday night.

Defensive end Breckyn Hager lost his cool after he wildly rushed at Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius, who was taking a knee as the final seconds ticked down on Texas’ second loss of the season. Hager took a swipe at the ball but was pushed away by OSU’s Tyron Johnson, inciting a pileup and a brief scrum.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy came off his sideline — it was closest to the play — and the next thing you know, Texas’ Tom Herman roared all the way across the field to confront him. Fingers pointed, lips flapped, cameras flashed.

Who knew Herman could cover that kind of ground in such a short time?

Sadly, it was his team’s longest run of the night.

Oklahoma State 38, Texas 35.

It all added up to the Horns dropping to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play with a really good West Virginia team coming to Royal-Memorial Stadium with plans to knock Texas out of first place.

Texas head coach Tom Herman meets with Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy following Oklahoma State’s 38-35 win over Texas in an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
The melee was television gold. Oh to be a lip reader on this night, but I’m pretty sure Herman wasn’t asking The Mullet if he had any spare bottled water lying round. For his part, Gundy turned toward his fans and raised both hands like Sugar Ray Leonard used to after win. Both later spoke glowingly of the other. Nice and neat like.

“I thought Mike had come out and was having words with one of our players,” Herman said.  “I took exception to that and when I shook his hand at the end, he said, ‘Hey I was just trying to make sure we were smart and no fight ensued.’  I believe him. We smiled. We go back. I have no issues. He told me what he was trying to do. I saw it differently at first and I was certainly going to go defend my guys.”

That’s admirable because it sends a message to the locker room and the fan base that Herman is all-in with this thing. The rebuild is well underway and while the Horns’ defense continues to have its struggles early in games, the fact Texas was in position to steal one after trailing 31-14 at the half speaks volumes to where this program is headed.

Now was his midfield top-blowing an embarrassing display? Of course. You never want to see the head coach charging out there like a Von Erich whose brother just got jumped by the Freebirds.

As for Hager, the more mature seniors on the team had no problem saying what needed to be said. Even at this late stage of his career, he still has some growing up to do.

Oklahoma State cornerback A.J. Green (4) breaks up a pass intended for Texas wide receiver Collin Johnson (9) during an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
“That’s not us, that’s not this program,” tight end Andrew Beck said. “I love Breckyn to death. Y’all know I live with him. But I’m disappointed in him. I’ll tell him that to his face. That’s not us and that’s not him and that’s not what we want this program to be. He’s better than that. We’re all young men growing up and we’ll learn that’s not how you take a loss.”

Well said by a person who has represented the program well.

Anyone who has followed this rivalry over the last decade plus knew the Cowboys were no stranger to jumping on Texas back in the day, only to give it up late. In 2004, OSU led Texas 35-7 in Austin but lost 56-35. The following season, the Horns trailed 28-12 at the half before rallying for a 47-28 win en route to a national title. In 2007, the Cowboys grabbed a 21-0 lead before Colt McCoy and Co. roared back for a 38-35 win.

So there was precedent. And when Sam Ehlinger hit Beck for a 10-yard touchdown pass to pull Texas to within 31-28 with 3:13 left, there was the feeling that even on a night when the Horns played horribly for most of the game, they would figure out a way to get out of Stillwater with a win.

It didn’t happen this time, but it will in time.

They call them growing pains. In other words, you have go through something to get to the desired destination. The Horns still have some growing up to do, from junior Brandon Jones’ poor decision to field a punt inside the 10-yard line over his shoulder to freshman D’Shawn Jamison’s decision to return a kickoff out of the end zone with tacklers already close by.

The worst decision didn’t even come between the lines. Senior cornerbacks Kris Boyd and Davante Davis were suspended for the first quarter for a violation of team rules. Boyd, a fiery player with an NFL body,  then proceeded to have one of the worst games of his career. OSU wideout Tylan Wallace caught 10 passes for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was the jelly and Boyd played the toast.

Looking ahead, the Horns are equipped to bounce back. Ehlinger’s shoulder looked fine and there didn’t appear to be any major injuries.

All that’s left is to get back to winning, something they’ve been doing this season.

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