Texas head coach Tom Herman speaks with quarterback Sam Ehlinger in a timeout in the second half of an NCAA college football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct., 19, 2019. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Football

Texas’ Tom Herman wanted questions about Kansas, now plenty of questions about Kansas

Kansas coaches took Herman's subtle dig at the Austin media and used it to fuel the Jayhawks

Posted October 20th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • “I think we received a lot of disrespect before this game,” Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley said.
  • The Longhorns (5-2, 3-1) held steady in the Associated Press Top 25 poll this week despite giving up 569 yards.
  • The 2018 Oklahoma squad, which had an awful defense, still won shootouts, won the Big 12.

Texas coach Tom Herman was a little agitated last Monday when reporters wanted to dissect the Oklahoma loss instead of look forward to Kansas. He must be new here.

“We actually play a game this week?,” Herman joked when someone finally mentioned the Jayhawks. He meant it as a dig at the media. He ended the press conference by saying, “All right, beat Kansas!”

This Monday, there will be plenty of questions about Kansas. Herman would kill for some softballs about this week’s opponent, TCU (3-3, 1-2 Big 12). The Horns opened Sunday as 1 1/2-point favorites.

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Never one to miss a trick, Kansas coaches took that little snippet from Herman and twisted it into some rather amazing bulletin board material. The Jayhawks came fully loaded, but the 15th-ranked Longhorns escaped Saturday night with a 50-48 win.

The final statistics from Texas’ 50-48 win over Kansas on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.

“I think we received a lot of disrespect before this game,” Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley said afterward, according to the Kansas City Star. “I actually love Texas. I love everything about this place really, except for one guy on the coaching staff on that sideline.

“You’ll probably figure out who it is based off his press conference earlier this week,” Stanley continued. “So I don’t have a lot of respect for that individual. But it was unfortunate we came up short.”

Stanley definitely wasn’t referring to UT defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, a not-so-fan favorite with the locals at the moment.

The Longhorns (5-2, 3-1) held steady in the Associated Press Top 25 poll this week despite giving up 569 yards and nearly being kneecapped at home.

Herman said the Horns failed to play “complementary football on the offensive side,” even though the offense had 638 yards and six more first downs than the Jayhawks. On this night, it took half a hundred points to beat the team with the worst defense in the Big 12.

Texas, meanwhile, just has the worst defense in school history. The Longhorns are allowing 469.9 yards per game more than halfway through the season. The previous record is 452.6 yards allowed in 2015. UT is the only school in the Big 12 allowing more than 300 passing yards per game.

“You guys are all going to ask me tons of questions about the defense and rightfully so,” Herman said before shooting down questions about the defense. “Next question,” he said twice.

Texas head coach Tom Herman, right, and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando watch their players against Kansas during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

On the injury front, Herman said, “I hope there’s good news. I don’t know for sure.” The coach said he would know more Sunday when safety Caden Sterns and cornerback Jalen Green, two starters, try to practice.

“The TCU game was kind of a best-case scenario, so we’ll see where they’re at on Sunday,” Herman said.

Safety Brandon Jones was also taken into the locker room before the game ended with a neck stinger injury. Herman wasn’t sure initially how serious it was.

At this point, the Texas defense is what it is. No matter what the coaches say, they cannot fix this unit’s problems with only five games left in the regular season. Orlando speaks to reporters only on Wednesdays, per Herman’s instructions.

The only parallel Herman can draw from is the 2018 Oklahoma squad. The Sooners had the league’s worst total defense and worst pass defense and still won a Big 12 championship.

That team, led by Heisman winner Kyler Murray, averaged a Big 12-high 48.4 points per game. OU had to score at least 50 points to win five conference games during the back half of the regular season. That defense couldn’t stop anybody.

This is the only viable path for Herman’s group now. A program that wanted to hang its hat on defense must win shootouts to save the season. The road map remains unchanged; winning out is the only way for UT to guarantee itself a spot in the Big 12 title game.

The Texas secondary has been clipped by multiple injuries. But the defensive line features the same three starters it has all season. The linebacking corps is stocked. Still, Texas has only one sack in three games.

Texas defensive lineman Keondre Coburn (99) lifts Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

“Nobody’s perfect,” UT receiver Devin Duvernay said. “We’re all going to make some mistakes. We’ve just got to have each other’s back and play for each other.”

Offensively, Texas averages 40.9 points per game. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger has thrown 21 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He’s thrown at least four touchdowns in four games this season, the highest total in school history. Overall, Ehlinger now has 7,264 passing yards, the fifth-highest total at Texas.

It sure helps having Collin Johnson back on the field. He missed three games with a nagging hamstring injury. Johnson had eight catches for 96 yards against the Jayhawks. Three of those came on the crucial last-minute drive to set up Cameron Dicker’s 33-yard, game-winning field goal.

“It’s been real frustrating for me,” Johnson said in his first interview since his return. “Obviously I’m a senior, it’s my last year. If I could draw it out, it wouldn’t go this way. But at the end of the day, it’s football. It’s life. Adversity happens. You’ve got to figure out a way to adjust and move and keep fighting. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Johnson sounds inspired to make sure this offense keeps chugging along.

“I’m going to be a good example for my teammates, the younger guys, and show that I’ve got some fight to me,” Johnson said. “We’re going to continue to work hard and do what we can.”

Just in case TCU doesn’t come up during Herman’s press conference, the Horned Frogs have a .500 record after Saturday’s loss at Kansas State. It’s another good quarterback challenge for UT’s beleaguered secondary. Max Duggan has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions while averaging 3.3 rushing yards per attempt.

The Frogs are just as frustrated as the Longhorns.

“What do I tell the guys? Our back is against the wall,” senior lineman David Bolisomi told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “When we start to come out, we come out swinging. Play like street football.”

A street fight near the Stockyards sounds like a whale of a Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth.

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

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