Tom Herman’s weekly press conference was on focus. Injuries. Sam Ehlinger’s development. Schematic changes on the defense. Philosophical changes on the defense. Making adjustments on the line. His thoughts on Iowa State’s quarterback. His thoughts on Iowa State’s star receiver.
What didn’t come up was Iowa State’s star running back — who will miss the first half. David Montgomery was ejected from last Saturday’s win over Baylor for his role in an on-field fight. So one of the Big 12’s best running backs won’t play till the third quarter.
About those injuries:
- Starting cornerback Davante Davis had an MRI done on his knee and ankle. He’s got a bone bruise on his knee and a strained muscle in his ankle. Herman said they’re going to plan on having him available but added that decision won’t be made until later this week.
- Starting safety Brandon Jones (ankle) is running, but hasn’t started cutting on the field. That should happen on Wednesday.
- The other starting safety, Caden Sterns, should be ready to go Saturday.
- Starting wide receiver Collin Johnson (knee) should start getting work in practice later this week.
- Backup defensive back Josh Thompson (ankle) is doubtful.
- Running back Keaontay Ingram aggravated a hip point injury but is expected to be available.
On to the questions and answers.
On Sam Ehlinger’s growth and development: “There is the technical side. I think Sam’s done a really good job of compacting his base and his lower body throwing motion. He still has some bad habits here and there, but he’s getting the ball out quicker. The intangible: Trust. He trusts Tim Beck, he trusts the offensive staff, he trusts his wide receivers, he trusts his offensive line and, at the end of the day, he trusts himself a lot more than I think he did in the past. … We have given him a lot of freedom in terms of the things that we’ve allowed him to do at the offensive line of scrimmage, and for the most part, he’s been spot-on and he’s being very aggressive without being reckless.”
On snapping the two-game losing streak and getting that seventh win: “I’d be naive to say that that’s not real. I think we were psychologically maybe on some shaky ground after the last two weeks and the way that those games happened — a three-point loss on the road and a one-point heartbreaker here to a top-10 football team. … Obviously, we’ve got work to do. … There are certainly things that our offense can do better to help our defense.”
Speaking of defense, Herman tried to put Texas’ recent defensive struggles into perspective, noting that the Horns have faced four of the top 10 passing offenses in the country in four of the last five weeks; and that four of the last five opponents have had top-12 ranked teams ranked in total offense, “and we did it with pretty much a MASH unit in the second half.”
He said he expects Texas to play much better defense this week. Why? One, they’ll learn from their mistakes over the past couple of games. Two, they’re getting critical stops at critical times. Three, the defense should be getting healthier.
On winning in shootouts: “We certainly are not gonna be a throw-it-every-snap team. If we had our druthers, we’re gonna run the football, we’re gonna do it with tempo, we’re gonna be a pro-spread run game with very NFL tendencies; we’re gonna run play-action pass on first and second down, we’re gonna drop back and throw on third down and second-and-long. But if need be, which was the case the last couple of weeks, we’ve called more drop-back pass on first and second down the last two weeks than the first eight weeks combined. And we’ve got a lot of confidence in that.”
On teams seeming to pick on Kris Boyd more in recent weeks: “I thought he played great against West Virginia. I really did. I know as offensive coaches, there’s got to be a massive discrepancy between talent between two different corners in order to ‘target’ a guy or not target a guy. You go back to our days in Houston when we had a guy named William Jackson, who was a first-rounder, that guy saw maybe two or three balls thrown his way all game. … We don’t have that right now. Especially in this league. We were joking yesterday: Who’s going to be the first-team all-conference wide receivers in this league, let alone second-team? This is a league full of ridiculously talented wide receivers and really good quarterbacks. I think when balls get thrown at Kris, they’re thrown because that’s what the coverage and the secondary structure based on whatever route scheme was called by the offense, that’s where the ball is intended to go. I don’t think it’s necessarily hey, we’re going to throw at this guy. I wouldn’t. Kris is a really talented guy that has made a lot of plays for us over the years.
On Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy and wide receiver Hakeem Butler: “I’ve known Hakeem since high school; we recruited him when we were at the University of Houston. Great kid. He was raw, he was a basketball guy and extremely talented. I think the thing that he has developed in his game is his physicality — much more physical when the ball is in the air and in the run game. He’s a punishing blocker out there on the perimeter. And then Purdy, the guy’s undefeated. He’s 5-0, he’s got a ton of moxie, you can tell nothing phases that kid. It doesn’t matter the opponent, the atmosphere, the stadium. He’s got that ‘it’ factor.”
Last week, the most interesting exchange was with the American-Statesman’s Kirk Bohls over what would and would not qualify as a successful season. This week, they hit the high point again not over wins or losses, but over the kind of team we’re seeing on the field.
Bohls reminded Herman that he once maintained Texas will win by playing great defense and riding the running game — and then noted that the Longhorns have actually become the exact opposite of that, “the quintessential Big 12 team” that scores a lot of points and gives up a lot of points. He asked if that bothers the coach or if it’s just something that’s evolved from personnel and strengths.
“The latter,” Herman said. “It doesn’t bother me. I like winning. We’re gonna win the game the way the game needs to be won. We’re still not where we want to be running the football. We’re light years ahead of where we were, but the bar was set pretty low. So we’re still not quite there yet. And to be honest with you, our best players on offense are our receivers and our quarterback and our tight end, and our running backs out of the backfield. Are we going to turn it into a throw it 70 times a game outfit? No, we’ll never do that. But we understand that as good of a plan that we have on defense, as good as players we have on defense, this stretch of five games has been a murderer’s row of elite offenses not just in this league but in the country. Our defense, the last couple (of games) especially, has been really, really banged up. We weren’t going to win the last few games 17-14. Just wasn’t going to happen. That’s something our offense understands very early in the week.”
Texas and Iowa State kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday. It’s a Longhorn Network game. It’s also the final home game of the season, so the seniors will be honored on Senior Night before the game.
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