Texas defensive lineman Chris Nelson (97) rubs his belly while wearing the Golden Hat following Texas' 48-45 win over Oklahoma in an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Football

Texas coach Tom Herman’s 1-0 mentality could be what keeps the rising Longhorns grounded

Longhorns have no reason to take the 4-2 Bears lightly: ‘Have you seen the last four years?’

Posted October 8th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Tom Herman on his 1-0 mantra: “I’d always believed in the value of competition.”
  • Lake Travis product Charlie Brewer triggers the 16th-best offense in the nation.
  • “There is no midseason conference championship trophy.”

Texas coach Tom Herman said he received 197 congratulatory text messages after Saturday’s win over Oklahoma. “I got nine after we lost to Maryland,” Herman said Monday. “I got nine.”

One month ago, the Longhorns were a collection of fragile players that went into a shell when they got chewed out at halftime against Tulsa. Now, Texas is considered one of the top-10 best programs in America.

Reservations are being taken on UT’s bandwagon, and walk-ins are welcome, too. Unlike the rest of the city of Austin, space around here is unlimited. But even with all this newfound attention, the ninth-ranked Longhorns (5-1, 3-0 Big 12) must stay tethered to terra firma.

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Herman’s catchphrase has worked thus far: Just go 1-0 each day, each week, all season long, he tells the Longhorns. Did you win the press conference? On Monday, Herman went 1-0 there, too.

It’d be downright irresponsible for Texas players to think they can just show up and beat Baylor, a 16-point underdog, with minimal effort this week. After all, “Have you seen the last four years?” Herman said.

The Longhorns got plenty of kudos for their weekend exploits. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger was named the Big 12’s offensive player of the week and kicker Cameron Dicker earned the league’s special teams honors. Receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey was named to the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll.

Herman said he voted Texas 11th in this week’s coaches’ poll. He slotted OU “12th or 13th, something like that.” He admitted that he doesn’t get to watch much college football. “I don’t know, I hear Alabama is really good,” he said.

Herman’s club played so well last weekend, OU coach Lincoln Riley fired defensive coordinator Mike Stoops late Sunday. UT’s 48 points were the most ever scored by the Horns in the Red River Showdown.

“I’ve been totally focused on Baylor since we celebrated Saturday night after the win and woke up 0-0 against Baylor,” Herman said on Monday’s Big 12 conference call. “All the stuff that happens across the country is pretty irrelevant.”

When Texas modernized its locker room in 2017, Herman asked for construction workers to put a huge sign on the wall that reads “1-0.” It’s his daily mantra, something repeated so often the players can’t help but parrot it back when pestered by reporters.

Texas offensive lineman Patrick Vahe wears a 1-0 lapel pin before an NCAA college football game between Texas and TCU in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. The pin symbolizes Texas head coach Tom Herman’s saying, “Go 1-0 every week.” NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

On Monday, Herman delved into the psychology behind it and said, “I’d always believed in the value of competition.

“It’s what made this the greatest country …,” Herman said, “that we’re allowed to compete, both in the business sector and in the social sector and entertainment sector.  To break it down, human nature is to not do things that are difficult and not do things that are time-consuming or painful. But to win, you have to do those things.

“Yeah, we want to go 1-0 every week. But it’s much more micro in our program. It’s about winning every rep in practice. It’s about winning every off-season drill. It’s about winning every test you take in the classroom.”

Herman said “it’s about competing against the three entities we talk about all the time.” One is a direct opponent, like the person lined up directly across the line of scrimmage. The second is your own best self.

“If you’ve done something 100 times, is your 101st going to be better than the 100th?” Herman said. “That’s very much against human nature, because we’re all conditioned to put it on auto-pilot when we do things over and over again.”

The third is “the little demon in your head that’s tells you nobody’s watching, it’s OK to do nine pushups when you’re supposed to do 10,” the coach said.

“I just think being competitive in everything you do in any facet of life is going to lead to success, no matter how you define success,” Herman said. “For us, it’s winning football games and graduating players.”

Herman sounds like someone who would be put off by the idea that Texas should beat Baylor (4-2, 2-1) because of its burnt orange uniforms or Bevo Boulevard.

“Expecting to win, just that word ‘expect’ in my mind breeds entitlement,” Herman said. “It breeds arrogance. We don’t expect anything than what we’ve earned.”

UT linebacker Malik Jefferson sacks Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer in the first quarter at McLane Stadium in Waco on Saturday October 28, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer, a Lake Travis product, engineers an offense averaging 499.5 yards per game. That ranks 16th nationally. Brewer has thrown nine touchdowns and two interceptions, but he’s nowhere near the dynamic speedster that OU’s Kyler Murray is.

“Kyler Murray is really fast,” Herman said shaking his head. “And No. 5 (OU’s Marquise Brown) is really fast. Whoa, can those guys run. We’re fast on defense, but they’re faster.”

Texas has not won any championships yet. The Longhorns have beaten three ranked teams, but some real challenges remain. Texas will face Baylor and then a chance to rest during a much-needed off week. After that, it’s a sprint to the regular-season finish line with always-dangerous road trips to Oklahoma State and Texas Tech still to come. And those two home games against West Virginia and Iowa State don’t look like gimmes, either.

“There is no midseason conference championship trophy,” Herman said. “(Big 12 commissioner) Bob Bowlsby was at our game; he didn’t handout a midseason conference championship trophy. There is a lot of season left. A lot.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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