For all the frustrations over Chris Warren III, the apparent no-calls by Pac-12 officials and late-night play-calling hysterics, let’s all remember one thing: Texas almost knocked out No. 4 USC.
In Los Angeles, no less.
Nobody that I saw gave the Longhorns a shot on the road against the Trojans, who were more than two-touchdown favorites. Heck, it was thought to be a win if Texas could simply keep it close.
Well, Tom Herman’s charges did far more than that. The defense rose up with a performance that we haven’t seen in years. Freshman Sam Ehlinger developed more poise as the game wore on, something that will help Texas immensely down the road. And both offensive and defensive lines played far more physical than what they showed in the first two games.
Still, as Herman is quick to tell you, Texas lost 27-24 in double-overtime. That’s why he admitted to letting out some “primal screams” afterward.
Before we dive into the autopsy, let’s at least acknowledge the Horns could be on the right track after stumbling out of the gate. Texas is 1-2 in this off week. The next game is Sept. 28 at Iowa State.
“Anybody that’s been watching Texas football for the last few years and even the first game of this season, I would hope that you guys saw a much-improved energy, passion, enthusiasm,” Herman said Monday. “Our guys the last two weeks have shown up to play, and they’ve played really, really hard.”
Now, if everyone will please put on your burnt orange safety gloves and goggles.
UT’s two running backs combine for nine carries, USC’s combine for 27 carries. USC has a first-round draft pick for the NFL at quarterback. UT has a true freshman. Help us understand this strategy. Herman gets 5 million dollars for this?
— Nat via email
I just don’t buy your QB is a better runner than Chris Warren. He had 4 carries and yes that was better than all of the others. I know he had one carry a little for 5 yards. That is why a lot of us don’t think we are being told a straight answer.
— Ben via Facebook
Take a look at Herman’s responses to questions about using Chris Warren. It seems like he’s dancing around them and never gives a direct answer. Makes you wonder if there is something behind the scenes we aren’t seeing playing into it.
— Nick via Facebook
OK, we could explore that as a possibility…
Warren is soft. Lets get over it already. He showed out last season. If you kept up with the off-season you’d know the coaches haven’t been impressed by his progression.
— Thomas via Facebook
There’s possibly something to this, too. Herman has said numerous times that Warren ran too high and had a bull’s-eye on his chest at times.
You guys please apply for the assistant offensive coordinator’s job. We could’ve won the game if you weren’t at a sports bar eating chicken wings and drinking light beer. Next game make sure the coach gets your info.
— Wayne via Facebook
As one who enjoys light beer, I also enjoy the classic chicken wing, a true American delicacy. I prefer them to be boneless with a savory sauce. One that’s bold with a hint of whimsy. I find this to be my preferred way to Sunday morning quarterback.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s refusal to use Warren more against USC was far and away the No. 1 topic in my inbox the morning after the game. It wasn’t even close. Warren, the 250-pounder from Rockwall, had only four carries for 15 yards, which as Herman points out is “3.8 yards per carry.” This was the first question addressed during Monday’s press conference, and Herman stuck with the idea that Warren simply was not effective enough to warrant more carries.
It’s ridiculous to think a sample size of four carries — one per quarter, essentially — is enough to make a determination that something isn’t going to work. USC stuck with its running game even though the Horns had Ronald Jones II bottled up most of the night.
I have to believe there’s far more to the Warren situation than Herman is letting on. He can’t (and shouldn’t) throw his offensive coordinator under the bus after just three games. He also can’t publicly slam Warren, no matter if he missed practice last week or missed pass protections in the game or whatever else somebody dreams up.
My reading of the tea leaves is that Herman is not happy about the running game one bit, but he’s comfortable taking all the bullets to protect everyone else. Frankly, that’s what a head coach is supposed to do. Now if we get through the Iowa State and Warren isn’t getting any carries, then red flags should be flying everywhere.
Of course, there’s no telling what the running game will look like now that left tackle Connor Williams is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Going forward, Tristan Nickelson and Denzel Okafor are the two starting tackles.
I saw this in the paper yesterday. “Chris Warren III only received four carries, which went for a total of 15 yards “ 15/4 = 3.75 yards per carry; not very good but not bad, either. Three plays at 3.75 yards per play is… a first down. If Texas runs the ball more and gets more first downs, the defense rests while the offense runs.
— Hank in Wimberley via email
For the record, I almost pointed that out to Herman on Monday but thought better of it. I had nowhere to duck.
Herman needs to be more involved in the offensive play calling. Tim Beck was not a good hire. Ohio State had the third-ranked offense in the Big 10, and was shut out against Clemson. Where is Chris Warren??? Great defensive show at USC. Royal and Campbell would be proud. Hook ’em!!
— Dan via email
Let’s be clear about this point: Herman has final say on everything. Just ask him. He’s wearing headsets, too. So if you don’t like the play-calling against USC, Oklahoma, Baylor or whomever, then ask Herman some questions, too. I do have a problem with Beck and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando not being made available to reporters after games. Both are well-paid assistants responsible for the offensive and defensive units. To not hear from them after games while the players have to face the music is plain wrong.
Lest we forget past lessons, let’s look back at 2014, 2015, and 2016. The same confident team-member quotes and sports media narratives were made in 2016 after beating Notre Dame. The same confident quotes and pro-Texas narratives were also made by the Texas team and their beat reporters in 2015 after upsetting mighty Oklahoma. And the same confident things were said in 2014 after the moral victory of playing Baylor tough at DKR.
Reality: the probability is high that USC’s inability to win comfortably against a mediocre 1-2 Texas team was due to USC’s team weaknesses instead of Texas’ improvements.
— Mark via email
I can’t deny those points. If we’re “keeping it real,” as Sean Adams always said, Texas fans and the college football world thought the Longhorns were back after knocking off Notre Dame last season. Turns out, we all got caught up in the emotions of that night and looked past the fact those were two bad teams. Maybe USC isn’t as good as everyone thinks. I still believe Texas isn’t as bad as its 1-2 record might indicate to those who haven’t watched the games. The Horns got a real wake-up call against Maryland and have played solid football the last two weeks. Let’s see what happens in the weeks to come.
My biggest second guess was the call to kick the extra point to send the game into a second overtime, instead of going for the win by a two-point conversion. You are a 15-point underdog, at USC’s home field, against No. 4 USC, with a true freshman QB making his 1st away game start. You lost your best O-linemen in the first quarter. and your defense hadn’t exactly shut USC down. You already had won the “moral victory” playing them so close. Win or lose the game right there.
— Clayton via Facebook
Herman was asked if had any regrets about not going for two on Monday. He said the throwback pass to Cade Brewer was the team’s planned two-point play. Brewer caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Ehlinger to tie things up in overtime 24-24. Texas did not have a timeout, so Herman said he didn’t have the chance to talk about things. Personally, I might have gone for it right there. You’re already playing with house money, so to speak. Go for the kill. Of course, go ask 10 different fans and you’ll get 10 different responses to that question, too. I don’t fault Herman one bit for kicking the extra point and playing on. It’s a great argument either way.
Why is no one talking about the referee mistakes that seemed to all go against Texas, as one of the sports announcers from Fox kept pointing out? I remember three pass interference calls that were missed; several holding penalties that were overlooked, and then there was that helmet pull that turned Ehlinger’s head all the way back. While it may not have qualified as a “face mask” violation, the defensive tackler had his hand inside the helmet. That should have qualified at least as an “unsportsmanlike” penalty. The NCAA needs to look at this type of violation as it happens quite a bit. Go Horns!
— Ray via email
There were at least two no-calls for pass interference that I think should have been called. The USC defender who used an arm bar on Collin Johnson running down the sideline was an easy call, in my mind. I also probably would not have called holding on P.J. Locke III on Michael Dickson’s fake punt. Locke did appear to throw the defender down, so I understand why he threw the flag.
The biggest non-call of the game came on Ehlinger’s sidearm throw that resulted in an interception at the USC 20. Uchenna Nwosu had his arm up in Ehlinger’s neck. While he did not grab the helmet, I do remember Big 12 director of officiating Walt Anderson telling us this summer that anything near the quarterback’s head was a foul. That was supposed to be a point of emphasis. To me, that’s anything above the shoulder pads. Nwosu should’ve been flagged for hands to the face, in my view. That would have negated the interception, obviously. If a Pac-12 crew worked the game in Los Angeles, I’d expect a Big 12 crew to handle the rematch when the two teams meet at Royal-Memorial Stadium next season.
Mr. Davis, I am a lifelong Trojan fan but after watching the game Saturday I wish to send my congratulations to the Horns for an excellent performance. “Class act” as Helton said. It looks like Tom Herman is turning things around and Ehlinger is a future star. Good job, Texas, and your prospects are bright.
— Tim via email
Can we tip our caps to the opposition for a moment? I was stunned walking up the tunnel with the Longhorns as USC fans were on their feet giving Texas a standing ovation. It was impressive. In fact, I never heard USC fans taunting Texas players before the game and vice versa. This will sound corny as hell, but that’s what a big-time college football experience feels, looks and sounds like. Hats off to USC fans and administrators. Here’s hoping Texas fans return the hospitality next year.
My main take away is that the rest of the season should be pretty good. Let’s just hope Texas isn’t playing up or down to the competition.
— David via email
And the congregation said, “Amen.” Texas simply cannot get all lathered up for USC and then come out flat against Iowa State. Absolutely cannot happen.
Got a question for the Whys of Texas mailbag? Contact Brian Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post The Whys of Texas: Questions galore about Chris Warren, going for 2 and those Pac-12 refs appeared first on Hook ‘Em.
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