“Same Old Texas.”
“New Era, Same Bad Team.”
“All Hype, No Substance.”
These are the things I’ve read since Saturday’s debacle against Maryland. While I can’t necessarily disagree with any of them, it’s not all completely true.
Yes, the Longhorns looked awful at times. In fact, I seriously thought I was watching the 2016 Texas team in the first half especially. The special teams miscues brought back nightmares. The major holes in the defensive line gave me chills. The big plays given up by the secondary gave me flashbacks.
But was I surprised with any of them? To an extent…not really.
I’ve told anyone who will listen to me that this is a damaged team that doesn’t know how to win. They haven’t won anything of significance since they’ve been at Texas. They don’t know how to win games on Saturday, or Thursday, or Friday or whenever they play.
I truly don’t think Tom Herman knew what he was getting into. I also believe he was completely shocked at the product on the field against Maryland. I said immediately after the game that I felt like Herman fully expected his team to look as good on Saturday as they do during the week of practice. They didn’t.
But why is that?
It’s taken Herman nine months to get this team to practice at the level he wants. The team practiced well under Charlie Strong also, but at different levels and with different expectations. For some reason, practice habits aren’t translating to the field with this group.
I expected Texas to beat Maryland. I also expected there to be a lot of similar mistakes. But I also thought maybe Herman’s newly instilled culture would remove the rust quickly enough to salvage the game. And believe it or not, it actually did.
In years past, this team would have packed their bags when they were down 27-7 in the second quarter. The end result would have been something to the effect of 55-14. Instead, they fought back and had a chance to win the game. The fact that they didn’t take advantage of the opportunities shows they are still mentally fragile and simply don’t know what to do in situations like that.
Herman admitted his team is mentally fragile. Those are his words, not mine. My words are that Herman inherited damaged goods, but he really didn’t know how damaged they were until last Saturday happened.
I really believe he fixed the problems from last year in practice. I saw glimpses of it. But I also saw a team playing timid and trying too hard to be perfect instead of running around and playing football. The demons came back to them when they took the field.
Herman’s next challenge is to instill a gameday culture similar to what he’s created on and off the field during the offseason. But you can’t simulate a real game. And you only get 12 games a year.
So how is he going to do it?
He gets paid $5 million a year, and I write a blog, so I’ll let him tell us and show us.
All I can say is I saw glimpses of hope from the cheap seats on Saturday. And when Herman said he had numerous players tell him on the sideline that they were going to win the game, I got a little hope. That wasn’t evident last year or the year before.
Herman has instilled a winning mentality in the offseason, but now it has to translate to when it matters on gameday.
Impatient Texas fans don’t want to hear it, but the process will take time. I made my prediction of Texas going 8-4 this season based on them beating Maryland. By default, I should adjust my prediction to 7-5, but I’m not going to. This team will get better and beat a team they shouldn’t.
While there were many more negatives than positives to anyone who watched the game on Saturday, I left the stadium with a little bit of hope. Frustrated without a doubt, but still hopeful.
I saw a team who wants to get mentally stronger, but they don’t know how to just yet. Now that a game is under their belt, I think they will be able to overcome more adversity than they have in the past. The team proved a lot on Saturday by turning a 27-7 deficit into a 37-34 deficit with the ball and a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
I honestly don’t care how bad the game looked on the surface. The ability to overcome adversity like they did shows progress. But I don’t consider it to be a moral victory.
The good thing about the Maryland game is Herman now knows what he’s working with on gameday, and not just the practice field. The demons are still going to come out occasionally throughout the season. And they are going to come out at the most inopportune times. I guarantee it.
I’ll save the talk about questionable coaching decisions, play calling and personnel issues for another time. But for right now, making this a mentally strong team has to be Herman’s number one priority.
Things could get rough over the next few weeks. So what he’s done in nine months of practice has to be done in a much shorter timeframe for Texas to see the success expected this season.