Tom Herman believes the concept of momentum isn’t real.
“It’s an illusion,” he has said on more than one occasion.
Well, whatever the Longhorns got their hands on after overcoming an early 11-point deficit against No. 22 Southern Cal before a record crowd at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, they should bottle it up and mass produce it. For the next nine games and beyond.
The 37-14 win came because the Horns won in every conceivable area — offense, defense, special teams, big plays, and especially in that M word, when teams string together some game-changing plays to overcome anything the opposition has going.
It sure felt like momentum in a prime-time showdown, and it’s something we haven’t seen in abundance around these parts in quite a while. There was a time when Texas momentum would put teams in a 21-0 first-quarter hole before the stadium was even half-full. There was a time when momentum would allow great Texas teams to fall behind early against quality competition and reel those teams with the ease of a new Zebco.
Whatever you choose to call the force that drove Texas to the second most important win of Tom Herman’s 16-game tenure — the Texas Bowl win over Missouri to break a three-year drought of winning season ranks first — it’s something this team needs moving forward to have a realistic chance of besting his 7-6 debut season.
I told Herman that the energy the crowd was giving was momentous, meaning it added to the momentum his team built in the second quarter.
“I think energy is certainly palpable,” he said, “but I think, again, that momentum is an illusion of control or lack thereof, but energy is a different thing. Our crowd and our fans and our students certainly provided us a ton of energy.”
So the same guy who spoke realistically of pixie dust after last season’s 51-41 loss to Maryland isn’t about to co-sign on anything momentum related?
Whether it’s momentum, fauxmentum or Mo Bamba — the tallest spectator in the stadium Saturday — the Horns used it to put together the most comprehensive home game we’ve seen against an opponent of note under Herman. The 59-0 shellacking of San Jose State last season was just that, a 59-0 shellacking of San Jose State. This was USC, albeit a USC that was missing big names like Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones II, one that was more talented than that Maryland group that lost 35-14 at home to 0-2 Temple on Saturday, two weeks after spanking Texas in the season opener.
DKR was electric for most of the night and the team fed off that energy from all angles, from a second quarter that was highlighted by Kris Boyd’s interception and Brandon Jones’ goal-line, fourth-down tackle of Stephen Carr to Caden Sterns’ field goal block that led to Anthony Wheeler’s scoop-and-score in the third quarter. Those plays were all borne of a belief we didn’t see on the East Coast and for much of a listless second half against Tulsa.
Boyd’s pick was the beginning. Jones’ tackle kept it going. From there, it snowballed and the Horns won going away. Texas is 2-1 and feeling a bit of confidence with TCU coming in here after its 40-28 loss to national title contender Ohio State.
Linebacker Gary Johnson echoed his coach’s opinion on the concept of momentum, but couldn’t help himself when asked about the importance of Jones’ stop.
“If those guys had gotten in, the momentum would have swung their way,” he said.
He’s right and the bigger point is there is sometimes tendency to make football too scientific, too much about X’s and O’s when it often just comes down to who wants it more and who can put together enough positive plays.
To steal a line from our boxing friends, the Horns got hit in the mouth and responded by seizing the momentum before a raucous crowd that showed up seeking blood.
All said, any way you slice it, the Horns fed off something that USC simply couldn’t match.
Texas’ job moving forward is to create more of it.