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Tom Herman’s off-week press conference: Some fire, fury … and even some Angry Birds after USC game

Posted September 18th, 2017

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Well, it took three weeks before we got a glimpse of Fiery Tom Herman, who held his usual Monday game-week press conference today even with the off week.

Texas is coming off an impressive performance in the double-overtime loss at No. 4 USC, and Herman tried to reinforce the positives that were taken from that game and how they can be funneled into the Big 12 schedule. But several of the questions he fielded weren’t so glowing, including why Chris Warren III and Kyle Porter were ignored in the second half and overtime, whether he’s satisfied or not satisfied with offensive coordinator, and how the offensive line will manage without All-American left tackle Connor Williams.

More than once, Herman bristled at questions. In some cases, he went into a back-and-forths like a White House press secretary would members of the press corps.

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The very first question came from the American-Statesman’s Brian Davis, who wanted to find out why Chris Warren III wasn’t utilized more against USC, particularly late in the game and in overtime.

Texas running back Chris Warren III (25) takes a break from warming up for the USC game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, September 16, 2017. After rushing for 166 yards against San Jose State the week before, he had only 4 carries for 15 yards against USC. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

Herman’s face contorted as he paused. “I don’t understand the question,” he said. “Not using? He had how many carries against San Jose State?”

“There has to be a specific reason why you guys are not using a thousand-yard rusher,” Davis asked.

“We’re talking about USC,” Davis replied. “He had four carries against USC —”

“At 3.8 yards per carry,” Herman interrupted, “so I think it’s difficult to … we’ve got to find a way of getting him more yards, but in the middle of a game you see how that is shaking out, the definition of insanity is repeating the same act expecting different results. So, going back to 3.8 yards per carry … I can see the use of some criticism there, too: ‘Tom, why did you give Chris Warren the ball 20 times if he’s only going to get 70 yards?”

Davis followed up: “I guess what I don’t understand is, why in double-overtime two quarterback run plays are better than ramming a 250-pound guy up the middle against a weakened defense?”

Herman answered: “Where were they weakened?”

“Up the middle,” Davis said. “They’d been going for 60 minutes, surely USC was worn down a little bit.”

Sam Ehlinger-Texas Longhorns
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) fights for yardage against USE defense in the NCAA college football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, September 16, 2017 in Los Angeles. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

Herman: “I didn’t see them weakened. Um, yeah, Sam got 9 yards, so we hadn’t had a running back make over 5 yards up to that point. Nine yards inside the 15-yard line is a pretty good run.”

A few questions later, Herman was asked by Horns Digest’s Chip Brown why Texas abandoned the use of outside counter runs that were so effective against San Jose State. Herman answered that the Longhorns didn’t like “the tight end matchup” for Texas during game-planning.

Later, American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls asked whether he was satisfied with offensive coordinator Tim Beck and the Longhorns’ play-calling during the game.

“My satisfaction level of two coaches we hired nine months ago is very, very good,” Herman said. “It’s an interesting question,” he ended his answer with.

Bohls mentioned the fact that instead of running Warren from 3 yards out on Texas’ final offensive play, it was Sam Ehlinger going up the middle on a quarterback draw.

“Quarterback power,” Herman corrected.

Other items:

  • Connor Williams will have surgery on Tuesday to repair his meniscus. Herman wouldn’t give a timetable for Williams’ return because he said they wouldn’t know until after the surgery.
  • As he said in his press conference after the game on Saturday, Shane Buechele is still the starting quarterback and will get the majority of first-team snaps when the Longhorns resume practice on Tuesday.
  • Texas will look to two freshmen — redshirt freshman J.P. Urquidez and true freshman Derek Kerstetter — to step up in the off-week and be able to play. If it’s Kerstetter, it would mean taking the redshirt off him.

“Desperation level is at an all-time high,” Herman said when asked about the desperation level along the offensive line.

And it wasn’t all back-and-forths. Herman also got two out-of-the-box questions.

  • First, he was asked how he spent the eight hours after the game. Herman said he didn’t sleep on the flight, instead watching ESPN’s college football wrapup show, SportsCenter and some of the LSU-Mississippi State game. Then he ate a sandwich and played Angry Birds on his phone. He said he ended up going to sleep back home at 7 a.m. Sunday.
  • And the last question was about chewing gum: What does he chew, how much does he chew, what’s the rotation system?

“It is Sugar-Free Double Bubble,” Herman said. “Individually packaged ones, and I like to put seven in my pocket at the start of each half. I make sure there are seven in my pocket.”

“That seems like an appropriate ending,” UT sports information director John Bianco said, closing the press conference.

And it was.

The Longhorns (1-2) open Big 12 play next Thursday, the 28th, at Iowa State. It’s a 7 p.m. kickoff and will be on ESPN.

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