Tag Archives: Texas Longhorns

Next Step For Texas: Eliminate Close Losses

Texas will never be a “moral victory” program, but it seems like that’s all we can get from the football team nowadays. In fact, it’s beginning to become predictable. Every time the Longhorns face a ranked opponent, they always have a chance to win the game, but find a unique and creative way to lose it.

How predictable is it? I wrote the majority of this article before Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State was even played, minus the details of the actual game, of course.

Tom Herman has to find a way to eliminate these close losses, or things could go south quickly for his program. For the record, I believe Herman is a much different coach than Charlie Strong, but you can’t argue with some of these numbers.

  • Texas lost three games by three points or less in the 2015 season.
  • Texas lost five games by seven points or less in the 2016 season.
  • And through seven games in 2017, Texas has lost three games by five points or less.

And to take it further on the opposite end, this team’s biggest loss under Herman so far is by ten points. Strong’s team lost by 20+ points nine times in three years. So am I saying the close losses are an acceptable trade-off for getting blown out? Not at all.

The most gut-wrenching thing about the close losses this season is the Longhorns held a lead against the #4, #12 and #10 ranked teams in the country in the fourth quarter.

So what can Texas and Herman do to convert these close losses into wins going forward? I don’t see a solution this year, unfortunately.

With a depleted offensive line, the offense is going to be limited all year. That unit may get a little better, but Sam Ehlinger is going to continue to run for his life every time he drops back to pass. It’s just the reality of the situation. A patchwork offensive line is exactly that…patchwork. It can’t be completely fixed in the course of a season, and it’s not going to be.

Not trying to be negative here, but I see what I see and I’m calling it as it is.

The defense has made an admirable turnaround since week one, and they may have turned in their best performance of the season against the top-ranked Oklahoma State offense. When you hold that team to just ten points in regulation, there’s no excuse to not win the game.

People can blame and criticize playcaller Tim Beck all they want, but the playcalling isn’t the issue. Just look at what Ehlinger is forced to do every play. The offense may be better off adopting a backyard football scheme and just have receivers run around everywhere until they get open. And forget about handing the ball off to a running back.

The good news is the brunt of the Big 12 schedule is over for the Longhorns. The hope of being in contention for the conference championship went out the window against Oklahoma State, and now the goal has been lessened to making a bowl game for the first time in two years.

When you look at how competitive this Texas team has been in big games, wins over teams like Baylor, Kansas and Texas Tech seem like a given. However, the confidence of this team is clearly shaken on offense, and could result in a loss in any game left on the schedule.

Until Texas figures out how to win a close game over a ranked opponent, we are going to see a lot more of what we did on Saturday. It had to be the most frustrating loss of the season for fans, simply because the result was predictable when the Longhorns held a slight lead in the fourth quarter.

In a way, it seems like the mindset of the players is similar to the mindset of the fans, or me at least. Instead of thinking how Texas could possibly pull off the upset, you can’t help but think how they are going to possibly lose the game after playing so well.

It’s the unfortunate state of the program right now, and it may not get any better until next season, at the earliest.

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

Photo: Flickr

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

Texas Found Its Gunslinger, And His Name Is Sam

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, the week of the OU game, I wrote about the tradition of the Red River Rivalry and virtually avoided writing anything about the actual Texas football team. Texas was 2-2 and coming off of back-to-back terrible losses to California and Oklahoma State. There was no hope for success and the team wasn’t worth talking about, so I chose to avoid it completely.

Fast forward a year and the Longhorns are coming off of yet another dramatic double-overtime game, but this time came out on the winning end against Kansas State. But it’s not only the victory to improve the team’s record to 3-2 that will make the headlines. It’s the fact that Texas has the quarterback they’ve been looking for, and his name is Sam Ehlinger.

I’m not proclaiming Ehlinger to be a hero my any means, but I am proclaiming him to be the starting quarterback over Shane Buechele. He’s clearly earned it.

If you missed it, head coach Tom Herman has been adamant about Buechele not losing his job only because of an injury. And to be fair, Buechele hasn’t been the main reason for the Longhorns’ failures on offense, but Ehlinger is just a better fit.

Notice I said the words “better fit” instead of “better quarterback.” The difference is Herman requires his quarterback to be mobile, based on his past coaching stops and the quarterbacks he’s had success with. Buechele can move, but not very well. What we saw Ehlinger do against Kansas State is exactly what Herman needs to finally get the offense moving in a positive direction and establish an identity.

It’s not the fact that he can scramble out of a sure sack to escape trouble. It’s not even the fact that he can lower his shoulder and completely run over a defensive back. But it’s the fact that Ehlinger is a threat to run the ball, and run the ball well, that will open up holes for this Texas offense.

That’s why Ehlinger has to be the starter going forward. I know he’s going to make mistakes. And quite honestly, I would expect a couple of horrendous games from the true freshman if he is in fact named the starter the rest of the season. But he’s not going to be able to grow unless he’s in those situations.

My final point on the subject is if Ehlinger is not the starter against OU in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, I’ll have some serious questions about what exactly Herman is trying to accomplish here in both the short-term and long-term.

Now, speaking of OU, Texas will have a bigger challenge than they even anticipated when they step foot in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday. No one in their right mind expected Oklahoma to lose at home to Iowa State over the weekend. I felt pretty good about Texas beating Oklahoma, but now I have my doubts because of that result.

Oklahoma simply doesn’t lose two games in a row. In fact, the last time the Sooners lost two games in a row in the regular season (not counting bowl games) was 1999. But in that season, the second loss came to Texas.

History isn’t on Texas’ side now, but the Longhorns clearly have some momentum going for them. Oklahoma is going to be angry, and they are going to play angry. I thought Texas would be able to catch them off guard, but now that’s not the case.

The Longhorns will only win this game if they play the level of defense they did against USC, and if the offensive line holds up well like they did against Kansas State.

And let’s not forget about the gunslinger himself. Ehlinger has lived for this moment. We will see on Saturday if the moment is too big for him. I seriously doubt that will be the case, though.

If the Longhorns lose the game, it would surprise me if it were because Ehlinger played a terrible game. The most likely outcome is the Texas offensive line gets mauled, and never gives Ehlinger a chance to do anything.

I’m still holding out hope that this Texas team may have figured out how to win over the last couple games. But this will be their biggest test so far in the conference season.

Tom Herman has a chance to get his first signature win at Texas. If he chooses to start anyone at quarterback not named Sam, he’ll be making a big mistake.

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

Photo: Wikimedia

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

The New Era of College Football: The Haves Trump The Have-Nots

The evolution of college football has created a new reality. Thanks to the college football arms race in facilities, fan support, and money as well as the nascent playoff system, there are two types of college football programs:

  1. Those that have a chance to win a national championship
  2. Those that have no chance to win a national championship

There is no migration between the types of programs. You either have a chance to win it all or you don’t. The rich teams get richer, everyone else treads water or drowns.

While there are two types of college football programs, there are three types of college football fans:

  1. Those fans who correctly recognize that their teams have a chance win a national championship
  2. Those fans who correctly realize their teams have no chance to win a national    championship
  3. Those fans who incorrectly believe their team has a chance to win the national championship, when in reality, they have no chance.

No convinced? Take a look at the following videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVC3UziHeGk and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU4NXtu2T5E.

These are, theoretically, facilities for college students. But we all know what these really are. Recruiting tools to draw top athletes to Texas and Texas A&M. These are “in-kind” payments to players who are ostensibly amateur athletes.

I have no doubt that the other programs with a chance to win a national championship have (or will soon have) facilities on par if not better than these. We all know the names of these programs – Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Ohio St, Michigan, Clemson, Florida State, & Oklahoma. You could probably add Oregon, Tennessee, Notre Dame and a small handful of other programs to this list, but that’s it. No other programs have a chance.

It is not shocking for fans of programs like Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College, Vandy, Kansas, and Northwestern that they have zero chance to win a national championship…ever. I think the fans of these programs understand that they will never have facilities like Texas or Texas A&M. They will never compromise their integrity to the extent that the contending programs must to get the numbers of top players needed to compete for a national championship. Fans from these programs and many more like them realize their role in the world of college football. They are fodder for the teams with a chance to win it all. They can have successful seasons and win bowl games, but they will never hoist the national championship trophy. Maybe that’s okay. The point of college, after all, is to educate young minds, not win national championships. College athletics is supposed to be entertaining, so if you recognize your place and revel in reaching the heights of success within the boundaries of your possibilities, college football is a great deal of fun.

What might be shocking to the vast majority of the fans of programs not listed above, is that their teams also have no chance to win a national championship. None, zero, zilch, nada… they just don’t realize it. Many programs fit this description…we can all name these programs with perpetually frustrated fans who mistakenly think they are on the cusp of breaking into the top tier of college programs – Virginia Tech, NC State, UNC, West Virginia, Michigan State, South Carolina, TCU, Baylor, Arizona, Missouri, Maryland, Iowa, Kansas St, and Arkansas among many others, have no chance to win a national championship. Unfortunately, their fans think they do.

Think about how excited fans of these programs are when they land a big-time recruit. A 5-star or high 4-star kid who is a “can’t miss” prospect. There are high-fives all around and dreams of winning the college football playoff. The sad reality is, the teams that have a real chance to win it all, get at least a half a dozen of these players – every year. Not one per year or every other year like the wannabe programs. So the teams with a real chance to win it all have 30 or more can’t-miss players on their teams. The wannabe teams might have 5.

None of this is lost on the best coaches in the industry either. Do you think Nick Saban is going to leave Alabama to coach Northwestern anytime soon? Urban Meyer going to Wake Forest? Which programs have huge donor bases that make space-age locker rooms possible? (hint: it’s not Duke and it’s not Virginia…nor NC State or West Virginia) The best coaches go to the programs with the biggest donor bases that pay the biggest salaries & fund the best facilities, which draw the best talent…and so the cycles continues.

Like gambling in Vegas, the college football game is rigged. Over the course of any season, there will be exciting times when wannabe teams beat the odds and score big upsets. But over the course of a full season (including the playoffs), a single wannabe program cannot beat the system. There are too many 30+ mega-recruit teams out there, getting better every day and one of those teams will win the national championship every time. It’s why house wins over time in Vegas. The swanky trappings of the Bellagio are not there because gamblers go home winners. The odds favor the house, so it always wins. The system favors the top programs, so they will always win.

As we begin the 2017 college football season, we could create a list of 18-20 programs with a chance to win it all. It would be the same list from 2016. The participants in the football championship will be from that list – with no chance for an upstart to crash the party. It’s like the list to get into the VIP section of a popular night club. Not on the list? Not getting in.

The downside of this could be that as more college football fans realize the game is rigged against them, fans will lose interest and the game’s popularity could begin to fade. Then again, Las Vegas doesn’t seem to be losing its steam and state lotteries continue to be wildly popular. Maybe the fans of the wannabe programs understand their fate better than they let on. Maybe they are like the lottery players, thinking that someone is going to win this jackpot, if I buy a ticket it might be me, so every season, misplaced hope springs eternal. Unfortunately, the odds of winning the Powerball are better than their team winning the national championship.

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @dmrayner.

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

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Week 1 – September 4, 2017

Welcome back to college football, the weekend was glorious, wasn’t it? We’re left with just Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech on the Week 1 schedule, so I think it’s a good time to play the Good, the Bad and the Ugly game with Week 1. Short of Tennessee losing and Butch Jones being left on a tarmac at Atlanta’s airport, nothing can top what we’re about to talk about.

The Good

Easily the best story in college football this week is UAB. After a three-year hiatus and my friends in Tuscaloosa doing everything in their power to prevent football in Birmingham, the Blazers have returned and were triumphant over Alabama A&M. On their first drive, UAB went 76 yards in fourteen plays and converted a touchdown on fourth down. Solid start.

UAB’s football schedule is mostly “easy,” but a solid showing against Florida on Sat Nov 18 could go a long way in bringing more of the right kind of attention to the program in 2017 and beyond.

Also, nice to see a record crowd for UAB in its return, but the long-term success of the program depends on constant support from fans and the community.

The Bad

This wasn’t a great opening weekend for three of the major football teams in Texas. Texas A&M was up on UCLA last night and forced the Bruins to score 34 points without a turnover is nothing short of amazing. Honestly, I turned the game off and switched to NASCAR then Netflix. If we started the evening with Jim Mora at the top of the coaching hot seat, he was quickly replaced by Kevin Sumlin.

Then there’s Tom Herman’s debut at Texas. For the record, I didn’t think Herman was ready for a job like Texas when he was hired and I’m not saying that Saturday’s loss to Maryland cemented that thought to me, because one game does not make a coach. Herman will have his team playing better, and as Chase will tell you this week there’s a lot that likely needs to happen behind the scenes for the Longhorns to get better. Turning non-Power 5 Houston around is a lot easier than turning Big 12 Texas around. That said, in the earlier three meetings between Maryland and Texas, Maryland had never scored; on Saturday they scored 51.

Last, we must talk about Baylor. I think we knew at some point all the shenanigans related to the off-field sexual assault was going to catch up to them in a big way. Coaching changes, players leaving or refusing to play there, negative press, and the constant stories hurt. Did I ever think it would show itself against FCS Lamar in Waco? absolutely not. Do I think this is absolute rock bottom for Baylor? Not even close.

The Ugly

99-0 was the score between St. John’s University and St. Scholastica (yes, she is real because I’m Catholic and I also checked Wikipedia.) in beautiful Collegeville, Minnesota. Per SB Nation, St. John’s used – and get ready for this one – almost 180 players in this game and wanted to play the fourth quarter with a running clock, but the men of Benedictine from Scholastica said, “No, thanks.”

Amazing.

And as a bonus: The Weird

Lane Kiffin. Down by 23 as his FAU Owls are facing the Midshipmen of Navy, the game is already in its third lightening delay and it is nearly 1am and Kiffin refuses to let the game go. He forces both teams to come back out, btw – Navy had already eaten their post-game meal, only to lose the game 42-19.

We get it, Lane – it’s still all about you.

E-mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Wikipedia

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