BEVO BEAT Football

Tom Herman: Thoughts on Ehlinger’s progress, going for it on fourth-and-1, and why it’s so hard to win in Manhattan

Posted September 24th, 2018

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Texas coach Tom Herman has just completed his regularly-scheduled Monday press conference.

For the second straight week, Herman was all smiles as he stepped up to the podium. And for the second straight week, he showed lots of love to the students who came early, were loud and stayed late after Saturday’s win over TCU. “If there’s a better feeling in college football than walking over to a jam-packed student section at DKR that have stayed for the entire game and singing “The Eyes of Texas” after a victory, you’ll have to show it to me,” he said.

And, for the second straight week, Herman emphasized that the big win the Longhorns just had is squarely in their rearview mirror.

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“We’re moving on,” Herman said.

This is the first time since 2008 that Texas has beaten ranked teams in consecutive weeks. The Longhorns are back in the Top 25 poll, at No. 18. And they’re halfway through what should be a season-defining four-game gauntlet of USC and TCU at home, at historically tough Manhattan against Kansas State, and then Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl.

“I told our team yesterday they’re not going to spot us seven points in Manhattan because we beat TCU,” Herman said. “Can we take the lessons that we’ve learned both from a football standpoint and a psychological standpoint, from the last coupe of weeks? Certainly. What happened agianst TCU, what happened against USC, for that matter what happened against Maryland is inconsequential to how we play and how Kansas State plays against us in Manhattan.”

Injury updates:

Offensive lineman Patrick Hudson is doubtful.

Wide receiver Brennan Eagles is going to practice Tuesday, so we’ll know more about that tomorrow. Same with running back Keaontay Ingram and linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, who’s still looking to make his UT debut. And starting center Zach Shackelford is going to practice as well.

“Now does that mean all those guys will make it to the game? I don’t know,” Herman said. “But we’re healing a little bit here at key spots.”

On the questions. And answers.

Herman got a couple of early questions about Sam Ehlinger. The Statesman’s Brian Davis, pointing out that the quarterback is now 5-5 after his first 10 career starts, wanted to know Herman’s thoughts on how he’s progressing.

“Progressing well. Certainly has a long way to go,” he said. “We were very critical — he was of himself and we were as coaches of him. It’s a lot easier to be critical when you win. There hasn’t been a perfect game played yet, but I do think he’s progressing. The more he does progress, the more confident he is of himself and the people around him and it’s a snowball, if you will: The more confidence he has, the better he plays, the better he plays, the more confidence he has.”

Orangeblood’s Anwar Richardson followed that up, wanting to talk about Ehlinger’s decision-making. He remarked that in the wins Ehlinger has played in, he’s thrown two interceptions. And in the five losses, he’s thrown seven.

“Talk about how his decision-making seems to be improving,” Richardson asked. “I know he hasn’t thrown an interception — I don’t want to jinx it here — over the last three games. Just talk about the progressions he’s making, seems like he takes a sack but it’s because he’s waiting for guys to get open. Just talk about him as a decision maker.”

(What was interesting in that question was a simple moment. Right when Richardson mentioned the part about not jinxing anything, Herman tapped his wooden podium. Didn’t knock in some obvious way. Just a simple tap of his finger, though it was clearly audible.)

“It’s better, certainly,” Herman answered. “I think in this sport, everybody wants to blame things on certain people. The quarterback gets blamed for interceptions, granted, because on the stat sheet it says three interceptions; it doesn’t say a tipped pass that got intercepted, it doesn’t say a blitzer that hit his arm when he should’ve been protected, so I think decision-making has improved. He’s got to trust his speed a little bit; when things break down, just run, don’t try to go back and forth and spin and cut back and all that stuff. Just go. Go forward.”

On why it’s so hard for Texas to win in Manhattan, Kan.: “It’s usually the places that have really good teams and really good coaches that are hard to win. Obviously Bill Snyder’s a Hall of Famer. His name’s on the dang stadium. He took over a program that was literally the worst in college football into a conference and national championship contender, he’s got great facilities, he’s recruiting well. He’s got great players, great coaches, great continuity. It’s difficult to get there just in terms of location, I think sometimes that plays into it from a travel aspect. And the fans are great. You put all that together, a well-coached team that plays hard, plays smart and a raucous fan base.”

On the defense playing well again: “You guys probably get sick of me saying it, but since the inception of the BCS and now into the College Football Playoff, there’s been one national champion that’s finished with a total defense outside the top 25, and that was Auburn. I think they finished 32nd that year. My math might be a little bit off. But they also had a quarterback named Cameron Newton. So we understand that to play at a championship level, you’re going to have to play great defense. … It’s something we take a lot of pride in.”

Freshman safety Caden Sterns, who had a pair of interceptions against TCU, was named the Big 12’s defensive player of the week on Monday.

On Collin Johnson, who 13 catches for 203 yards and a touchdown in the last two games: “He’s had a good couple of weeks, there’s no doubt about that. The difficult thing with Collin is his skill set is he’s one of the best one-on-one, 50/50 ball guys I’ve ever been around I would certainly imagine in the country right now. But I don’t get to call the defenses, either. If they want to devote two people to covering him, it makes it a little more difficult.”

On what’s up with Breckyn Hager: “He’s doing good. He’s getting close to the quarterback. He hasn’t had a lot of numbers show up just yet, but I think they’re coming.”

On whether there were second thoughts about going for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield: “When the defensive coordinator is on the headset, going ‘Go for it,’ that’s always a good sign. Fourth-and-1? We’d better be able to, in the future, get fourth-and-1.”

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