Tom Herman’s regularly-scheduled game week press conference Monday was 30 minutes of talk mostly about Texas, not Baylor: What’s working, what’s not, how do you sustain the energy and winning streak, etc.
There’s plenty to be happy about this week. There were no new injuries to report. The Longhorns are 5-1, ranked No. 9 in the country and 3-0 in the Big 12, with those three conference wins pretty big ones — 31-16 over TCU, 19-14 at Kansas State and 48-45 over Oklahoma in Dallas. They’re off to their best start after six games since the 2009 season that ended with the program’s last national championship game appearance.
And the horizon is bright. Texas’ last half of the regular season is against Baylor at DKR, at Oklahoma State, vs. West Virginia at home, at Texas Tech, vs. Iowa State at home and then at Kansas the day after Thanksgiving.
The Longhorns have won three straight against Baylor, historically have had success in Stillwater, beat West Virginia in Morgantown last year, has fared better against Texas Tech in Lubbock than in Austin in recent years, get the Cyclones at home and, beyond that infamous 2016 outlier in Lawrence, haven’t had issues with Kansas.
So, Herman was asked, with all this new-found prosperity, is he curious to see how his team responds to success? It has, after all, been awhile for Texas.
He responded by comparing the state of the team after the Maryland loss to after the Oklahoma win.
“Yeah,” Herman said. “I hope less curious as the week (goes on) and more sure of how they will (respond). I said to them when we lost the opener, I said this game wlll not define us; how we respond to it will, and I told them that about this Oklahoma game. That game will not define us; how we respond to it will. It’s not the ultimate goal. That’s not a hard concept for our guys to understand, what’s necessary week in and week out to win.
“You’re responding to different things,” he continued. “The first game, you’re responding to a loss. This one, you’re responding to a big win. But neither one of those games will define us, nor should it. But our response will.”
The Statesman’s Kirk Bohls asked: Does Texas have the look and the feel of a top-10 football team, and where did Herman vote the Longhorns on his coaches’ poll ballot?
Texas, at No. 9, is in the Top 10 for the first time since Sept. 18, 2010.
“I think I voted us 11,” Herman said. “And I don’t know. I watch so little college football, so I don’t know. I hear Alabama’s really good (there was laughter in the room). I got home in time to watch the end of the Notre Dame game and they look to be really good. But I haven’t watched enough to know what I’m comparing us against and I think there are times too, for the most part as coaches — we see all our warts every day in practice, every day in film study. ‘Look at this mistake we made, look at this mistake we made, look at this mistake we made.’ So that’s a difficult thing to answer, but I will say this: I know it’s fun for people to describe matchups, I know (polls) have been around for a hundred years, but the only one that matters is the one at the end. Midseason polls are great because our kids have earned that recognition but we’ve got to go out and win every week for it to matter.”
It was a similar answer that he gave earlier in the presser, when he was asked about getting to the point in the program where winning is expected.
Herman’s response to that one?
“I don’t think we’re at a place right now where you can say winning is expected. And I think that’s OK,” he said. “… Winning is extremely difficult and should be celebrated. Standard vs. expectation, I think, are two different things. … We don’t expect to win. We have a standard, we expect to play our best. It’s nice to know for the most part that if we do play our best, our best is good enough. There’s a level of arrogance maybe that comes with expecting to win that I don’t know that I ever really want our guys to have. I want them to understand that each week is a freaking battle.
Translation: Don’t look for a return of Texas swagger, essentially.
“You have to piece those long-range goals into specific weeks that you go 1-0 each week, and you celebrate that win and then you erase it,” he said. “And again, expecting to win — just that word alone, ‘expect’ in my mind breeds entitlement, breeds arrogance. We don’t expect anything other than what we’ve earned.”
Texas and Baylor kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium. The Bears beat Kansas State 37-34 on Saturday. The last five Texas-Baylor meetings:
2013: Baylor, 30-10 (Waco)
2014: Baylor, 28-7 (Austin)
2015: Texas, 23-17 (Waco)
2016: Texas, 35-34 (Austin)
2017: Texas, 38-7 (Waco)