Tom Herman’s regularly-scheduled game week press conference ahead of this week’s Texas Tech game surprisingly featured several questions about Texas’ opponent, not about the Longhorns themselves.
Texas is 6-3 and 4-2 in the Big 12. The Horns have lost two in a row after that 6-1 start and No. 6 national ranking. After the Maryland loss, things were in sky-is-falling mode. After Oklahoma State, it was about controlling destiny in regards to making the Big 12 championship game. After Saturday’s 42-41 heartbreak to West Virginia, it feels like just getting the ship righted again.
That starts with Texas Tech on Saturday, Herman said.
“A lot of guys were upset, as well they should be when you’re as invested as this crew is. But we’ve got to move on,” he said.
- Starting safety Brandon Jones (ankle) is questionable. “If we played today, he would not play but we’re hoping he takes a turn for the better in the coming days,” Herman said.
- Starting cornerback Davante Davis (neck sprain) is questionable.
- Starting linebacker Breckyn Hager (dislocated elbow) is questionable.
- Backup defensive end Marqez Bimage (dislocated shoulder) is out.
On to the questions and answers:
On the prospects of having to face two Texas Tech quarterbacks (Alan Bowman was hospitalized late Saturday night with a recurrence of issues from a collapsed lung injury): “I don’t think the level of difficulty is unbearable or even that severe. I think when the runner, Duffey, when he’s in there I think you’ll see us in more nickel personnel. When Bowman’s in there, we’ll probably be in a little more dime or lightning (package). These guys that have played for us on defense know the ins and outs and the strengths and weaknesses of each call, so we’ll have a good package of both available for us. Nothing will be completely foreign or new for our guys.”
On what’s bothered him the most the last two weeks (Texas has given up 80 points and nearly 1,100 yards of offense against Oklahoma State and West Virginia): “Playing a bit tentative. For whatever reason, we haven’t cut it loose at times. That’s on us to figure out why. Maybe it’s an uncertainty. Just playing tentative at times. The easiest way to (alleviate) some of that is to trim down the call sheet a little bit, make sure that guys are ultimately confident in what they’re doing. … That, and just more precision. We’ve got to coach our guys to fit our gaps more precisely and make sure we’re playing a lot more disciplined.”
On all of the close losses: “I don’t think there’s a guy in that locker room who would tell you hey, we don’t understand that everything matters and we don’t understand what’s necessary to win close ballgames. We’ve experienced it.”
On how well he knows Kliff Kingsbury, and on how hard it is to consistently produce big-time passing quarterbacks like Tech seems to: “I don’t know Kliff well. In passing we see each other at Big 12 meetings, see him out on the road every now and again recruiting. We’re friendly, certainly. I think it says one, to his evaluation of high school prospects and what they’re looking for very specifically; they’re not worried about stars or rankings or anything like that. They know what they value and they continue to recruit it. And then he does a great job developing them. When you’ve got a quarterback room that’s got Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb, that’s a pretty good room. It’s like the ship just keeps on sailing. It’s a testament to his evaluation and trusting what their program values in that position.”
On the Tech running game: “It would be easy for the general fan to overlook because their passing numbers are pretty gaudy. I think they’re second in the country in yards per game. But very similar to West Virginia: The quarterbacks and receivers get a lot of the publicity, but you’d better be able to stop the run or you’re going to bleed a slow death.”
The best exchange was with American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls, who asked Herman what would constitute a successful season this year, after winning seven games and a bowl game last year:
“Uh, to go 1-0 against Texas Tech,” Herman replied.
Bohls: “You’ve got three games left.”
Herman: “Mm hmm. Yep. To go 1-0 vs. Texas Tech.”
Bohls: “But since you won seven, to show progress to recruits and your own team?”
Herman: “Oh I think we’ve shown all the progress — not all the progress, we can still show more progress. But I don’t think there’s anybody who’s watched us for the last two years or watched this program for the last five or six that would argue we’ve made substantial progress up to this point. But I’m not going to get into what would be successful or not successful. The big picture is irrelevant. We’ve got to worry about making progress this week in terms of our level of play, to be able to go on the road and win a big-time ballgame.”
Bohls: “Can you say where your emotions are, having come so close the last two games but lost them?”
Herman: “Proud and frustrated at the same time. I’m so proud of the way we fought two weeks ago in Stillwater, extremely proud of the level of intensity and physicality that we continue to play with. That is something that will never waver in this program. But certainly frustrated that we couldn’t close the deal this past weekend and got off to such a poor start the weekend prior, but we know what we’re capable of, too.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. in Lubbock.
News on Bevo Beat is free and unlimited. Access to the rest of Hookem.com is included with an Austin American-Statesman subscription in addition to Statesman.com and the ePaper edition. Subscribe today at statesman.com/subscribe.