Texas head coach Tom Herman spoke with the media Monday. Here are five takeaways from what he said:
Cool and collected
Herman said postgame that senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger told him “they left us too much time” before Ehlinger led the stunning late comeback victory over Texas Tech.
According to Herman, the entire team was relaxed despite being down 15 with just over three minutes to play.
“I wasn’t real stressed, I think I smiled at our athletic director who was standing on the sideline,” Herman said. “We were a very relaxed crew, even when adversity was hitting us from every side.”
It took a perfect bounce on an onside kick and two special drives from Ehlinger, but the Longhorns scored 15 points in the final 3:13 to push the game to overtime. Herman said no members of the team lost belief that they could come back and win.
“Give credit to our players, they kept a positive attitude, kept their chin up,” Herman said. “It was actually fairly easy to stay calm and confident because I saw the demeanor and attitudes of our players and knew that as long as they still believe, we’ve got a chance.”
Defensive work in progress
There were plenty of factors that could have played into Texas’ poor defensive performance Saturday — it could’ve been the lack of conditioning against an up-tempo Texas Tech offense, or the heat combined with the shortened offseason.
But Herman said there’s no excuse for the way they performed.
“Our players on defense, they’re embarrassed,” Herman said. “They’ve watched the same video you watched, and they were a part of the same game everybody else saw, and they know that they’ve got to tackle better.”
Herman attributed the poor defensive performance (and tackling) not to missed assignments, but just a lack of execution. He said that he and defensive coordinator Chris Ash do teach wrapping up, and that he’s more worried about the translation of their teaching to the playing field than the teaching itself.
“They’re going to complete passes, everybody in college football is, certainly everybody in the Big 12,” Herman said. “We’ve got to get them on the ground much better than we did.”
Special teams improvement
To say the Texas special teams unit had a roller coaster game Saturday would be an understatement.
Junior Cameron Dicker’s successful onside kick was made necessary after several special teams disasters, including two punting mistakes that led to one blocked kick.
“It was not a schematic issue,” Herman said. “That same scheme we’ve been running for four years here. We missed a block on the one that got blocked.”
Without the worry of wanting to redshirt young players and save them from wasting a season of eligibility just on special teams, Herman said the Longhorns would like to employ young talent across the four primary special teams units. But for now, quite a few starters, including junior linebacker Joseph Ossai and junior safety Caden Sterns, start on special teams.
“We need (the young guys) to start on three or four (of the units),” Herman said. “But we’ve got to feel confident that they can get the job done, too, so that’s our job as coaches is to accelerate that learning without a normal training camp.”
As stellar as Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman was on Saturday (325 yards, 5 touchdowns), Bowman didn’t pose any kind of threat scrambling with the ball. Next Saturday, the Longhorns face a very different kind of quarterback in TCU’s Max Duggan.
Duggan’s rushing total against Iowa State was negated by seven sacks, but the Horned Frog sophomore is a dual-threat passer in its truest form.
“He is dangerous with his with his legs,” Herman said. “Whether it’s designed runs, zone-read type runs where he’s reading somebody, and just scrambles, and we’ve got to be very, very disciplined in our rush lanes when they do drop back to pass.”
Duggan came into the game against the Cyclones and completed 16 of his 19 pass attempts for 241 yards and three touchdowns. A year ago against Texas, he showed off his big-play ability and ran for 72 yards and a score in a win over the Longhorns.
“I think he’s a really, really good passer, really good manager of the game but definitely presents a new challenge when it comes to his ability to make plays with his feet,” Herman said.
Tough defense to crack
Speaking of 2019′s matchup, the TCU defense gave Ehlinger fits for much last year’s game. He threw for 321 yards, but threw four interceptions and never truly settled in as the Longhorns managed just 10 points in the second half.
Herman said that TCU head coach Gary Patterson’s defense isn’t schematically complex, but they’re extremely well-coached.
“Gary, to his credit, a ton of respect for him, doesn’t do a whole lot,” Herman said. “What he does is he’s got his players (playing) really, really hard, he puts them in great position, they’re extremely fundamentally sound.”
Paired with Patterson’s defense are safeties Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington, two of the country’s top defensive backs. Even though the scheme may not be tricky, Ehlinger will have plenty on his hands with Moehrig and Washington on the back end of the Horned Frog defense.
“Two of the best, if not the best, duo in the country at safety,” Herman said. “How do you go about game planning? I don’t know, I mean we’re three hours into it still pulling our hair out because they’re really, really good players.”
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