Tag Archives: Texas football

2017 Report Card For The Texas Longhorns

2017 brought a lot of hype to the Texas football program, but that’s really nothing new. Expectations were high with Tom Herman coming in and taking over the program, and to most people, those expectations didn’t come close to being met.

There were plenty of positives throughout the season, but we’ve seen this story before. Herman’s job this offseason is to build on those positives and eliminate the negatives. Previous regimes haven’t been able to do so successfully, and the result has been a below average team for the last several years.

Here are my thoughts on how each position unit graded out for the Longhorns in 2017.

Offense: C-

I believe Texas found it’s quarterback in Sam Ehlinger. Shane Buechele is a good quarterback, but he just can’t stay healthy enough to be relied upon. With that being said, Ehlinger is essentially the sole reason for three out of the six losses Texas had. He fumbled the ball in double overtime against USC, threw a dumb interception in overtime against Oklahoma State and made a terrible mistake by throwing the ball on a third down late in the game against Texas Tech that resulted in an interception.

Eliminate those three plays and Texas finishes the season at 10-3 instead of 7-6. That’s a brash statement, but it’s just an indication of how close the Longhorns were to meeting expectations. It was clear to me that the coaching staff sent a message to Ehlinger during bowl practices that he has to be smarter on the field. He tries to do too much at times and it hurts his team. I saw a smarter quarterback in the Texas Bowl against Missouri, so there is some promise that he could build on his maturity over the offseason.

Defense: A

There’s no question this Longhorns team wouldn’t have won seven games if it weren’t for Todd Orlando’s defense. In fact, this is probably a three- or four-win team if the defense hadn’t played stellar all season. The Texas defense faced a top-tier quarterback week in and week out, and pretty much contained them as much as possible.

Consider this list of names Texas faced: Sam Darnold, Mason Rudolph, Baker Mayfield and Drew Lock. Three of those quarterbacks will be selected in the upcoming NFL draft, and the fourth likely will be next year. The common theme is Orlando’s defense held those quarterbacks in check and did not allow them to take over the game, as they do against other opponents.

It appears Herman and the UT administration is working on a contract extension and a raise for Orlando, which could be the best thing they do all offseason.

Special Teams: B-

The only reason I’ve given this high of a grade for this unit is because of punter Michael Dickson. There’s a reason why he’s a Ray Guy award winner for the best punter in the nation. He was the best offense in many games for Texas, with his ability to flip field position and put the defense in a better position to succeed. The Longhorns are going to miss his leg next year as he heads off to the NFL.

Special Teams would have received an “A” grade if it weren’t for the field goal kicking woes. Herman was forced to either go for it on 4th down or punt numerous times instead of attempting a long field goal. In some cases, he passed up field goal attempts of under 30 yards because he couldn’t trust his kicker. Look at every good Texas team in the last 15 years and you’ll recognize the name of the kicker. It’s a critical part of the success of any program, and the Longhorns didn’t have it this year. Hopefully, Herman will solve the kicking woes in recruiting this offseason, because it was clearly an issue in 2017.

Recap

2017 was mostly a year to forget but could be a turning point for the program as well. Stability within the UT athletic department could be a sign of good things coming for Texas, and bringing back a pretty decent amount of experience will help. Herman now knows how fragile of a group he was working with all year, especially from a mental standpoint, so now he has to go to work to address those issues. Otherwise, we will be talking about a similar story at this point next year.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Flickr

Agree or Disagree With Tom Herman’s Sideline Mockery?

In case you missed it, Tom Herman created a bit of a stir at the end of the Longhorns’ 33-16 bowl game victory over Missouri. For this article to make sense, take a minute to watch this.

Now, to the casual college football fan, Herman looked completely immature and irresponsible as a head coach of a major university. I get that because he did.

I’m not going to make any excuses for Herman here because he’s got to be better in this situation. If you’re going to mock the opposing team in any way, do it behind closed doors so only your team can see it.

With that said, I have absolutely no problem with what Herman did. What the casual fan doesn’t know is that Missouri players had been mocking and trash talking to Texas players all week leading up to the game.

And then they committed the big no-no: flashing the horns down sign.

Here’s a video that surfaced to give the rest of this article even more context.

This is exactly why I have no problem with Herman’s mockery.

Opposing players, coaches and fans constantly mock Texas by throwing the horns down sign. Throwing the horns up sign signifies so much for the University of Texas, whether it’s celebrating after a big play, scoring a touchdown, singing the Eyes of Texas or anything else. When a person throws the horns down sign, they are mocking the player, coach, alumni and university as a whole.

And you know what? There’s never any outrage. In fact, I think I saw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty thrown on an opposing team for the first time ever this year for doing it.

Why is it ok for other teams to throw their horns down with no backlash, but the Longhorns can’t mock an opposing player’s celebration? It’s complete crap is what it is.

Another reason why I’m ok with Herman’s mockery is that it shows he takes the horns down sign personally. Mack Brown did, but he handled the issue behind closed doors (like it should be). Charlie Strong didn’t respect the sign much and didn’t care if it was disrespected, in my opinion.

For the first time in a long time, I saw a coach and players get as upset and pissed off as I do when I see the horns down sign. Especially when it’s directed at me specifically. It takes quite a bit to make me mad, but there’s something about seeing the horns down sign that boils my blood every single time.

So when I saw the video of the Missouri players doing the horns down sign so freely and confidently, I was proud to see Herman and the Texas players on the sideline doing what they did. Probably the thing I’m most proud of after seeing the video is that the Texas players on the stage with those Missouri players didn’t light them up right there on the stage. If it were me, I would have had a hard time not going all-out Bobby Boucher on them as they were prancing around proudly with their horns down.

Unfortunately for Herman, he’s going to have to live with the social media backlash for a while. It will be talked about for a couple days and will definitely resurface throughout future football seasons, but it is what it is. But if he won over the locker room by doing it, then mission accomplished. And according to Breckyn Hager, he did:

Now if Herman makes this type of behavior the norm, then I’ll have a problem with it. But for a fragile program that has no self-pride in several years, I’m ok with it just this time.

My final point is for the people who say the team should act like they’ve been there before, in regards to winning. My rebuttal is this team has not been there before. They don’t know what winning feels like. Maybe this will give them a taste of winning, maybe it won’t. But for Herman, it’s a small price to pay to potentially elevate his program.

To recap:

Should Herman have done what he did? Probably not.

Is it the end of the world? Definitely not.

Should he make those antics a habit? Absolutely not.

Should Texas fans be embarrassed? Depends on your opinion, but embarrassment is not something that describes my feelings, obviously.

Do the Longhorns have a coach who genuinely takes pride in the University? You better believe it, and it was proven at the Texas Bowl.

And for the record, the Missouri quarterback whom Herman mocked understands the situation and has no problem with it:

Once Texas returns to their winning ways again, this will never be an issue with Herman or his players. I feel confident in saying that. The program just has to get to that point first.

Hook’em \m/

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

The Horns Still Have The “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Culture

Tom Herman made it clear exactly one year ago that he came to Austin to change the Longhorns football program into a winning culture again. He thought he was doing all of the right things, but he didn’t know what he was getting into until the opening game.

Fast forward a bit to last week, and it looked like Texas had established an identity and gained some confidence, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But just like the past three years, the team took one step forward against West Virginia, and two steps back against Texas Tech the following week.

How can a team look so fluid and on the same page with one another, and then be completely discombobulated the next? It’s the culture that’s been established since at least 2014, that’s how.

This program simply doesn’t know how to handle success, even as minor as the success may be. Getting to bowl eligibility is something to be celebrated for this program since it’s something they haven’t achieved since 2014. I don’t think they celebrated too much and overlooked Texas Tech, though. But I do think the players heard people talking all week about how much better they looked and had all the momentum in their favor.

The culture for the players is to believe the hype without playing the game. This team simply isn’t good enough to beat anyone on talent alone, and it was proved yet again on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

So what’s next for the Horns?

They will get an invite to a bad bowl game that will likely be played in the middle of the day during the last week of the year. No one around Austin will be excited about the bowl game, which means the players probably won’t be either. That will be especially true if the handful of juniors who could make the jump to the NFL have already made their decision that they won’t be returning for their senior season.

Quite honestly, I don’t know if winning or losing the bowl game will make a difference for the culture Herman is trying to instill. I really don’t believe it will affect recruiting one way or another. But what it will do is help Herman prepare for next season. Out of the 15 bowl practices the team gets, I would be surprised if the majority of them aren’t focused on next year rather than actually winning the bowl game.

But as Herman has realized this season, he has a whole lot more work to do to get his players mentally ready to be successful. You can’t have a team that feels good about themselves after a win over an average team, and then completely lays an egg the next week against a below average team. The result you get with that type of culture will always be a team with 4-6 losses every single year, and that’s assuming you have enough talent to beat a few average teams on your schedule.

Until Herman is able to at least change the culture to a “two steps forward, one step back” culture, there’s going to be a similar amount of loss in the Texas football program. And no matter how much we hear about the culture being changed, we will never truly know it has happened until we see the results in the win column.

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Texas’ Bowl Chances Could Rely On One Player

I understand a lot has happened this season and there are many reasons why Texas may or may not make a bowl game this season. However, with two games remaining and needing to win one of them, one player stands out to me as needing to step up: cornerback Kris Boyd.

For the casual followers of the Longhorns, I’ll tell you why he is more important now than he has been all year. Holton Hill was recently suspended for the rest of the season for a violation of team rules. Hill has been the best player on the Texas defense and has even been thought of as a potential first round NFL draft pick if he leaves school after the season as a junior. Unless you follow games closely, you may not have even heard of Hill, simply because opposing teams don’t throw the ball in his direction much. He’s been that good.

Now Kris Boyd has slid over into Hill’s role as the number one cornerback. Boyd has had a solid year, but he’s good for at least one blown coverage a game, and potentially a personal foul for a late hit or pass interference flag. There’s a lot of good and bad with Boyd, but now that he’s replacing Hill, there needs to be a lot more good.

Positive signs were not there against Kansas, who put up 27 points and over 350 yards of offense against a Texas defense that has been stout all season for the most part. The two remaining teams on the schedule, West Virginia and Texas Tech, have a lot better offenses than Kansas.

We all know Texas isn’t going to be able to win either of their upcoming games if they get into a shootout. They just aren’t equipped to score 30+ points against any team with an average defense. We are halfway through November and we still don’t know who’s going to start at quarterback any given week. That’s how bad things are.

Boyd hasn’t shown the ability to be a lockdown cornerback like Hill was. And with other key injuries to the Texas secondary, it doesn’t bode well for the defense to be able to shut down their remaining opponents like they’ve done other teams this season.

I expect the defense to be able to hang around with West Virginia and Texas Tech regardless, but the absence of Hill could prove to be the difference. Teams will now be more willing to throw to their primary receiver since Boyd can be exposed more easily than Hill could. The main thing with Boyd is he absolutely cannot give up the big play or have a critical penalty at a crucial time in the game.

So when you’re watching the game on Saturday, keep an eye out for #2 playing defense for the burnt orange and white. If you hear Boyd’s name called for positive things, Texas has a chance to win out. But if you hear similar things that have been said all season about Boyd getting flagged or blowing coverages, Texas could get shut out of a bowl for a third straight year.

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at chas[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Texas Found Its Identity, But How Far Will It Take Them?

If you missed it last week, I wrote about how Sam Ehlinger should be the starting quarterback for Texas against Oklahoma and for the rest of the season. That came true on Saturday, but it still wasn’t enough to beat Oklahoma. But anyone who watched the game saw that Ehlinger wasn’t the problem.

Texas has been searching for their identity, especially on offense, for the first six games of the season. They finally had a little glimpse of what it could be against Kansas State, and the Oklahoma game solidified it.

This Texas team will go as far as Sam Ehlinger takes them. He is their identity.

The Longhorns totaled 452 yards of offense against the Sooners, and Ehlinger accounted for 392 of them. Add that to last week’s totals and Ehlinger has combined for a total of 871 yards of offense in the last two games on his own.

The only time Texas could run the ball against Oklahoma, Ehlinger had the ball in his hands. He ran for 106 yards on 22 carries. Chris Warren, Kyle Porter and Toneil Carter combined for 17 yards on 14 carries. That’s not going to take the Longhorns very far.

As a Texas fan, I’ve seen this scenario before. In 2015, Jerrod Heard took Longhorns nation by storm by accounting for the majority of the offensive production. But what happened when he had a couple of games under his belt? The opposing teams knew what to expect and shut him down.

The difference with Ehlinger is he is more capable of throwing the ball than Heard was, but this is still a one-dimensional team. Most of the time when you talk about a team being one-dimensional, it’s because they can only run the ball or only throw it, but can’t do both.

This team is one-dimensional because they only have one player who can do it all. But as we learned on Saturday, it’s not going to be good enough against top teams.

The running game woes boil down to having to use a patchwork offensive line. Only two of the five starters to begin the season are still in their same positions. Due to injuries, players are out for the season and forcing guards to move to tackles and vice versa. You never know what you’re going to get from the offensive line on any given play, much less any given game.

As good as Ehlinger has played these last couple of games, he’s not going to be able to win big games if he’s running for his life constantly. I honestly don’t know how Tom Herman is going to fix the offensive line with the lack of depth and inexperience throughout the group.

The thing that worries me most about Texas’ new found identity is it’s easy for good teams to key on. The thing I’m at peace with is Ehlinger doesn’t shy away from contact and can make things happen with his feet and his arm.

When you’re truly a one-dimensional team, you have to have a dynamic player to bail you out of circumstances. Ehlinger has shown he can be that player, but now he has four games of film on him. It’s going to change, and when it does, it could get ugly. Especially if the defense doesn’t play at a high level like they have been since week two of the season.

Herman’s biggest challenge at this point is adding another dimension to his team’s identity. It’s obviously not going to be in the traditional run game, but I’m not sure an unconventional run game will even work at this point.

Texas fans can’t expect this team to change much for the rest of this year. What you saw on Saturday is their identity. And I’m not sure yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Pexels

For Texas, Better To Win Ugly Than Lose Pretty

You can’t go undefeated in conference play unless you win the first game, and that’s exactly what the Longhorns did last Thursday night against Iowa State. It wasn’t pretty at all in many areas, but a win’s a win and I’ll never complain about winning a ballgame anymore.

This is a program that hasn’t seen success in recent years on the road. In fact, they are 2-9 in their last 11 true road games before the win over Iowa State Thursday. And you want to know something even crazier? The win over Iowa State was the Longhorns’ first win outside the state of Texas since they beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater back in November of 2014.

THAT is why this win shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The Texas defense again showed the potential to be scary good as the meat of the conference schedule is about to come up. The offense, on the other hand, still lacks an identity. If Texas is going to win a significant amount of games the rest of the season, I’m convinced none of them are going to be pretty wins. But an ugly win is much better than looking good in a loss, no matter how you want to look at it.

Still, it’s the ugliness of the Iowa State win that makes it hard to believe this team can compete with the top teams in the Big 12 on a regular basis. They may come out a game or two and surprise some people, but there are still too many flaws to be considered a contender in the Big 12 at this point.

Most people will point to the quarterback position and offensive playcalling as being the obvious areas needing improvement. But if you look at the bigger issue concerning both of those areas, you have to start with the offensive line.

Injuries are beginning to put a serious damper on the offensive line play. It’s to the point now where a true freshman had to be inserted into the starting lineup four games into the season, when he was planning on getting a redshirt.

Iowa State completely disrupted the Texas offense by bringing a little bit of pressure. If the Cyclones brought anything more than a three-man rush, the result of the play was either a holding penalty, a tackle for loss or a quarterback hurry. You think the rest of the Big 12 coaches saw that and know exactly what they have to do to beat Texas? I guarantee it.

The challenge for Texas going forward is to find some way to compensate for a shaky offensive line. Quick slants in the passing game are a must. Bringing in an extra blocker in the run game is essential. The starting five on the offensive line won’t be able to get the job done at this point, so Tom Herman is going to have to get creative.

As good as the defense has played the last couple games, they aren’t going to be able to hold teams to under 20 points every game. Kansas State is next on the schedule, who is notorious for giving Texas fits. Luckily the game is being played in Austin, so I have a good feeling about this one.

Just like the Iowa State game, I don’t expect to be completely pleased with the overall performance of the team on Saturday. But an ugly win against Kansas State will feel much better than an impressive looking loss.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia

Should Texas Be Commended For A Loss?

If you were one of the nearly five million viewers who watched USC beat Texas in double overtime a couple Saturday’s ago, you got yourself a real treat. I was one of the 84,000+ people in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that evening and got every penny’s worth of the price of admission.

There was a lot of talk immediately following the game about the performance the Longhorns had against the fourth-ranked Trojans, and I didn’t see or hear much negativity about it. In fact, walking out of the Coliseum that night, I hadn’t been more proud to be wearing my burnt orange since Texas dominated Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl in 2015.

The reality, though, is the team still lost. I’ve harped over and over how this team simply doesn’t know how to win and the program will not be turned around until Tom Herman figures out how to turn them into winners. But this loss felt different at the time. It felt like progress.

For the first time in seemingly a decade, it looked like the players on the field cared more about the game than I did. That’s really all you can ask for as a fan.

But now, this program has a huge opportunity to build on the success they had against USC and learn from their mistakes. Will it happen this Thursday against Iowa State in Ames, or will Texas revert back to their old ways and play down to the level of their competition?

Speaking of that, on Tom Herman’s weekly radio show last week, he was asked about whether he was worried about his team playing down to their level of competition, and the possibility of complacency seeping into the locker room. His response was pure gold and refreshing to hear.

To summarize, he said he couldn’t understand why people were congratulating him after the USC game. Congratulations should never happen for a loss, because a loss is a loss, no matter what the effort looked like. He has no fear about his players playing down to their level of competition because Herman himself doesn’t even know what it means (of course, you know he does, but he’s just getting in the minds of the players and fans).

He also laughed at the notion of complacency in the locker room. How in the world can you be complacent after you lose? This team is 1-2 through three games, and the media is asking about complacency?

Herman continued by saying that notion was foreign to him. But honestly, he hasn’t followed this program in the last few years. Those questions were legitimate.

This team would get complacent at the most random times. If they beat OU, they would lose to Iowa State in the same year. If they beat Baylor, they would lose to Kansas. All because of complacency and playing down or up to the level of their competition.

Now, as good as Texas appeared to play against USC, there are still plenty of concerns, which have all been acknowledged by Herman. Let’s start with these:

  • Texas lost their All-American left tackle for possibly the season due to injury, leaving them with only five offensive linemen with quality experience.
  • Sam Ehlinger had four turnovers. More on this in a moment.
  • Chris Warren had four carries. I’m not getting into running game issues today, but here are my thoughts.
  • Against two Power-Five opponents, Texas has not scored a single offensive point in the first half of those games.
  • The offense has no identity, which will hurt them tremendously going forward if it doesn’t change.

As for true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger, we saw this guy grow up a little more and get better from quarter to quarter against USC. But we have to pump the brakes on him a little bit. I’m going to make a comparison here that would probably get fans riled up, but just know that I’m not suggesting anything negative.

Remember when Garrett Gilbert was thrown into the national championship game against Alabama and was praised for an admirable performance in a loss? He had four turnovers that game, just like Ehlinger had against USC.

For the record, I’m not comparing Ehlinger to Gilbert at all. I make the point just to say we can’t anoint a freshman quarterback based on one performance. Could Ehlinger be the answer? It wouldn’t surprise me. Let’s just let this play out before calling him the savior of the program, like what happened to Gilbert. This program can’t afford yet another quarterback bust.

The bottom line is Texas has to go out and validate their performance against USC by completely dominating Iowa State on the road Thursday night. There were plenty of positives to take away from that game, but losing is losing and the team has to get better. Effort alone nearly beat the fourth-ranked team in the country, so cleaning up some issues and fixing some mistakes make this team’s ceiling very high.

This week is yet another challenge that Herman hasn’t faced with his team yet. He should seriously take the media questions and the fans reactions to heart. He may not think complacency is possible after a loss, but it has been with this team.

Fans are telling the players how well they played. National media are saying good things about the program. All of it can make complacency creep in. Take it to heart, Herman, because we will clearly see how good of a job you did the last couple weeks when your team takes the field on Thursday.

There may not be five million people tuning into this game, but you can bet the fans that do tune in will want to see nothing less than the fight, intensity, and effort put up against USC.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Texas May Be Forced To Rely On An Unconventional Running Game

It’s amazing how a single player can hide a lot of flaws on a team. It’s clear to me after two games that D’Onta Foreman single handily carried the Longhorns’ rushing attack in 2016. We thought it was the strength of the offensive line, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Texas couldn’t get anything going on the ground against Maryland, but ran for over 400 yards against San Jose State. Yes, I realize San Jose State isn’t the greatest team in college football, but it’s the way Texas racked up those 400+ yards that got my attention.

I do believe Texas has a formidable offensive line that will eventually gel together and allow for a solid rushing attack on a consistent basis. But they aren’t there yet, so Tom Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck decided to go unconventional to open things up against San Jose State, and it worked.

I think we are going to see more runs out of the wildcat formation. Chris Warren took snaps from the formation, Jerrod Heard did the same, and LJ Humphrey did the same last week. It’s been the most successful way to get a running game going so far this short season, and it’s the only hope the Longhorns have of taking some pressure off the quarterback, whomever that may be.

And since I mentioned quarterbacks, I’ll say that Sam Ehlinger looked good for a true freshman, but there shouldn’t be a quarterback controversy starting up anytime soon. Shane Buechele should get the start against USC this weekend if he’s healthy. But that doesn’t mean we should see the same offense that rolled out on the field against Maryland.

It bothers me a bit that Texas can’t just hand the ball off to their stable of running backs and average 4-5 yards per carry, similar to how they did last year. But if there’s one thing I like about this coaching staff so far, it’s their willingness to adapt. Time will tell if the running game adjustments just happened because of Ehlinger getting the reps, or if the unconventional running attack will become the norm.

No matter who takes the snaps at quarterback against USC, Texas will get blown out if they aren’t able to run like they did last weekend. I’m not saying they have to run for 400 yards, but gaining 200-250 yards is a necessity if they want to stay in the game.

This is an important number not only because it helps take some pressure off the quarterback, but it also keeps the USC offense off the field. And that’s going to be huge against a team that just racked up 600+ yards of total offense against Stanford.

There are plenty of reasons why USC is going beat Texas this weekend. But being able to sustain a drive on offense by running the ball will help keep the Longhorns in it.

I want to see Jerrod Heard take more snaps in the wildcat formation, if that’s the route this offensive staff wants to take to develop a running game. I’m in no way suggesting Heard should be in the discussion for being the starting quarterback. But I do believe he has a high ceiling with multiple different package options due to his ability to throw and his breakaway speed.

I’m expecting a lot of creativity for this offense against USC, simply because it has to happen. It may be unconventional and only be a temporary fix for hiding a much larger issue, but if it leads to victories against top opponents, then I won’t be arguing against it.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia

Same Old Texas?

“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.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Pixabay

Let The Tom Herman Era Begin

Saturday will mark 280 days since Tom Herman was hired at Texas. From all accounts, he’s made the most of every single day at the 40 Acres.

Whether it’s upgrading the Godzillatron, enhancing the locker room and facilities or just shaking the hands that need to be shaken, Herman has done it all. But now it’s time for him to do what he’s paid to do…win football games.

Herman was hired to bring Texas back to national prominence quickly, and it starts Saturday against Maryland. While I’m not expecting a completely dominating performance, history shows Herman’s teams tend to do exactly that in opening games, which could be a reason why the Longhorns are 17-point favorites at home.

Texas fans don’t need to see a national championship this year. The realistic fans know it’s not going to happen anyway. Being competitive in every single game, winning the games you’re supposed to and avoiding embarrassing losses will already be a step ahead of the last three seasons. And it could also equate to an eight or nine win season.

And I must throw in a refreshing point after watching a little bit of Charlie Strong’s debut with South Florida Saturday night. I felt like I was watching the 2016 Longhorns. Seriously.

The special teams penalties and miscues, the completely disorganized appearance of the team and mismanagement all looked eerily similar. I’m glad that’s no longer an issue. Well, at the very least, it’s not going to be at the same level.

There are things you can and can’t coach with a football team. Talent is something you can’t coach. Discipline can be coached. We always heard Strong had a talented team, and it didn’t make sense why he wasn’t winning games. The answer lies in the coaching, and I think it will be very clear very soon this year.

I’m ready to wear my burnt orange with pride again, rather than just wearing it because it’s all I have in my closet.

I’m ready to truly be excited about Saturday’s again, instead of trying to give myself a false sense of hope.

I’m ready to enjoy a big victory again and know that it’s not an anomaly.

And yes, in a sick way, I’m ready to hurt for an entire week after a grueling loss.

Losses haven’t hurt the way they used to back in the glory days. And if I’m feeling that as a fan, I would expect similar feelings in the locker room.

I expect Herman to change that attitude quickly. A win is going to feel normal again. A loss is going to feel like the worst thing in the world.

I remember being upset during the 10-win seasons of the Colt McCoy days because the wins “didn’t look good enough.” I’m looking forward to that again under Herman.

But just like it took a little while for losing to become the norm, I think winning will be the same way. The wins won’t feel normal again until the losses really start hurting.

All I can say is, I’m ready for it all with Herman leading the way. Let’s watch some college football and get the Tom Herman era underway at Texas!

Hook’em \m/

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia