In the second quarter, there were two telling social media posts during the Texas-Maryland season opener:
First, some number cruncher at ESPN figured out that the Longhorns have lost 39 straight games when they’ve trailed by 14 or more points. Then Chuck F’n Strong — Charlie Strong’s fake Twitter account — posted: “It’s like I was never fired.”
And in some ways, that was true. Saturday’s 2017 opener felt like it was 2016 all over again. Or 2015. Or 2014.
Texas’ season-opening loss — the first game of the Tom Herman era — was marred by some of the same shortcomings that have haunted Texas over the last three years. There were missed opportunities on offense, there were defensive issues stopping runs up the middle, the secondary gave up chunk plays, there were costly penalties and there was a general malaise of not being able to sustain drives.
The day started with such promise — a bright, sunny morning, a pick-six touchdown on the third play of the game, and the excitement over a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator and new offensive and defensive schemes. But really it was more of the same, a 51-41 loss to Maryland, a team that finished sixth in the Big Ten East last year.
Herman appropriately was wearing black.
“That was obviously not the result any of us wanted or expected,” Herman said to open his post-game press conference.
Why Texas lost: See above. Neither Porter (who started) nor Warren established themselves as the alpha rusher; Porter had 8 carries for 21 yards and averaged 2.6 yards per carry, Warren had 6 carries for 31 yards. Neither scored. Shane Buechele was sacked five times, looked harried most of the day and misfired on virtually every attempt downfield. Texas’ return teams gave up big plays and the Longhorns couldn’t take advantage of Maryland’s second-string quarterback when the game — then only a 3-point margin — was on the line; the Terrapins turned a tight 37-34 lead into a 10-point victory.
Why Maryland won: Quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, thought to be a liability in the passing game, was a real spark. He produced 239 yards of total offense and accounted for three touchdowns. And the defense won the battle up front, consistently getting into the backfield thanks to one UT lineman’s blocking breakdown after another.
The game recap:
First quarter: Maryland 14, Texas 7
Texas struck first, although Hill’s interception return wasn’t exactly a score predicted by anyone. UT last scored on a pick-six in 2015 — when Hill returned an interception for a touchdown against Oklahoma State. After a slow start — nine yards on four rushes and an interception on Maryland’s first two drives – Pigrome went to work. The sophomore turned a Buechele interception into a five-play scoring drive, and his touchdown pass capped a three-play, 74-yard drive.
Texas: Holton Hill 31-yard interception return (Joshua Rowland kick)
Maryland: Tyrrell Pigrome 25-yard run (Adam Greene kick)
Maryland: D.J. Moore 20-yard pass from Pigrome (Greene kick)
Second quarter: Halftime — Maryland 30, Texas 14
Texas had five kicks blocked last year, and Maryland continued that trend when it blocked Joshua Rowland’s 44-yard attempt and returned it for a score. The blocked field goal came two plays after an offensive pass interference call on Reggie Hemphill-Mapps wiped out a first down at the Maryland 6. But what goes around comes around — Hill returned to the end zone on a 65-yard return of Poona Ford’s blocked kick. The play was UT’s first score off a blocked field goal since 2002.
Maryland: Antoine Brooks 71-yard blocked field goal return (Greene kick)
Texas: Hill 65-yard blocked field goal return (Rowland kick)
Maryland: Greene 25-yard field goal
Third quarter: Maryland 37, Texas 34
Texas and Maryland went on a three-touchdowns-in-three-minutes flurry, and the Longhorns tacked on another score before the quarter ended. Texas picked up three of those scores, and Hemphill-Mapps’ was UT’s first punt return for a touchdown since 2015. It was also the third-longest return in school history. During UT’s last TD drive, both Jerrod Heard and Lil’Jordan Humphrey lined up as wildcat QBs on third-down attempts. They each ran for a first down. And on the quarter’s final play, Pigrome appeared to suffer a knee injury.
Texas: Armanti Foreman 33-yard pass from Shane Buechele (pass failed)
Texas: Reggie Hemphill-Mapps 91-yard punt return (Rowland kick)
Maryland: Ty Johnson 40-yard run (Greene kick)
Fourth quarter: Final — Maryland 51, Texas 41
Kasim Hill, Maryland’s freshman backup quarterback, stepped into a 2nd-and-17 situation after Pigrome left with an apparent knee injury on the final play of third. Greene’s 50-yard field goal try wasn’t even close. Texas, down 37-34, decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Terrapins’ 48. Buechele was stopped for no gain. That led to a Terrapins touchdown drive sparked by a big 40-yard pass on third-and-19 and a horsecollar tackle penalty by Naashon Hughes. That made it 44-34; Texas’ next drive stalled on a failed fourth-and-2 at Maryland’s 44 (Buechele lost 4 yards on the play). Texas added a touchdown pass to Collin Johnson late.
Maryland: Kasim Hill 3-yard run (Greene kick)
Maryland: Jake Funk 12-yard run (Greene kick)
Texas: Collin Johnson 32 pass from Buechele (Rowland kick)
1. Collin Johnson (7-125-1) and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps (7-69) got most of the receiving work. Armanti Foreman ended up with five catches as well, though only one was memorable — a 33-yard grab over the middle where he made a nice adjustment on the ball. Take away that one play and he had four grabs for 24 yards.
2. The offensive line, which Herman glowed about early this week, struggled. Besides the five sacks, there were several blocking breakdowns and penalties. A Tristan Nickelson holding call wiped out a touchdown pass to John Burt. Jake McMillon missed a block on third down, forcing a punt. Patrick Vahe allowed a lineman to blow past him. Even Connor Williams was flagged for holding — twice, on the same fourth quarter drive.
3. Herman trusts these receivers. On short-yardage plays he called for several short crossing routes over the middle.
4. We saw Jerrod Heard line up as a wildcat quarterback. He got 4 yards on a third-and-3 play in the third quarter. Lil’Jordan Humprey did as well, on a third-and-4 later in the same drive, and gained 21 yards running behind a Williams block.
5. Two missed field goals from Joshua Rowland. One wide left, one blocked. Concerning.
Next up for Texas: San Jose State, next Saturday, at 2:30 p.m. at DKR.
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