Tom Herman’s final regular-season Monday press conference was laid back, comfortable and focused. The second-year Texas coach was all smiles as he began. He opened with thoughts/concerns over the short week — getting out of DKR between midnight and 1 a.m. late Saturday night, then turning around for practice on Sunday and then having to prep the game plan for a Friday game.
“A lot of propped-up eyelids right now,” Herman said.
Of course, the Kansas Jayhawks are in the same situation.
“Nothing too serious,” Herman said.
- Starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s MRI results came back. It’s a “re-aggravation” of the sprained shoulder injury he suffered against Baylor. He won’t throw in practice today, but probably will on Tuesday.
- Starting defensive tackle Chris Nelson (knee bruise) “should be fine.”
- Starting cornerback Kris Boyd (knee bruise) is fine.
- Running back Tre Watson (hip bruises) should be fine.
On to the questions and answers:
On why he wouldn’t want to give Ehlinger a rest this week and go with backup Shane Buechele, who’s led UT to wins in relief against Baylor and Iowa State: “‘Cause we’re going to play the best players, the players that give us the best chance to win regardless of opponent. Sam’s earned the right that if he’s healthy to start the game, he’s proven that he can win really big ballgames for us and perform that way. We’re gonna need our best to win, and we are very confident in Shane Buechele, but there’s a reason that Sam Ehlinger is our starting quarterback. If our best is healthy, we’re gonna play our best.”
On the progress and state of the Texas program: “We’ve come a long way. We’re by far (from) a finished product. Again I would argue that we’re overachievers. At this point, when you look throughout the landscape of our conference, how many first-team all-conference guys do we have on our starting 22? I don’t know. I think we’ve got some pretty good players but we’ve got a lot of guys who know how to play ‘team football,’ and we’re overachieving. That’s the sign of progress, when your culture can take over and win some games.”
On how he’d grade himself as a head coach at this point of his career: “Umm, incomplete. I’ll grade myself as a head coach when I retire.
On returning to the scene of the 2016 loss to Kansas: “I feel that program that went there, I feel like that was 50 years ago, not two years ago. We’re so far past that point in our program.”
On his players’ comments about wanting to make up for that 2016 loss: “Whatever gets a guy to motivate himself to the fullest to come to work, to prepare and give his all for his teammates each and every day, I don’t care if it’s reading a quote book or thinking about previous games or a game you won or lost in high school — if it helps get you excited about practice, then great.”
Herman said none of his players have mentioned that 2016 loss to him. “I don’t think athletes leave anything open to be closed. You can’t function that way. You can’t give your all that way. I think win or lose, regardless of opponent, regardless of venue, you have to move on. It requires a skill to make sure you do it properly. … There’s no need for closure. We’ve played a lot of football since then and we’ve grown a lot as a team.”
On who’ll win Friday’s Oklahoma-West Virginia game: “The team that scores at least one more than the other.
On Kansas’ performance against Oklahoma last week: “Those kids love David Beaty, and they should. Good friend of mine, a hell of a football coach. Although the records over the years may not have seen … I think all of us with a trained eye can watch the video each and every week; they’ve been in pretty much every game that they’ve played and obviously they’ve won two games this year against Power Five opponents. … They’re running the ball and defensively they’ve switched to a three-man front and pose a lot of issues from a schematic standpoint. Them scoring 40 points in Norman to me tells me they love their head coach and they love being a part of that program.”
Herman was asked which of his players have come the farthest this season. He pointed out three (or is that seven?).
1. “I’d say our offensive line as a whole.”
2. Senior defensive end Charles Omenihu: “His game has steadily improved over the course of the year.”
3. Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger: “Certainly has improved from Week 1 to now.”
Friday’s game in Lawrence kicks off at 11 a.m. It’ll be carried by Fox Sports 1.
A win puts Texas into the Big 12 championship game against the winner of Friday’s OU-WVU game (7 p.m., ESPN). Should Texas lose, the Horns would still make the title game if the Mountaineers beat the Sooners.
The Longhorns lead the all-time series with Kansas 14-3. The last five meetings:
2013: Texas, 35-13 (Austin)
2014: Texas, 23-0 (Lawrence)
2015: Texas, 59-20 (Austin)
2016: Kansas, 24-21 (Lawrence)
2017: Texas, 42-27 (Austin)
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