Every week, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman talks with former head coach Mack Brown.
Last Monday, the national title-winning coach and mentor to his former graduate assistant shared some advice about what normally happens when the Horns travel to Manhattan to take on the Kansas State Wildcats.
“Make sure that you tell your team that the Kansas State team you see on video is not going to be the same Kansas State team that you see in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday afternoon. You’re going to get a more aggressive, more cohesive, more physical outfit,” Brown told Herman.
The prognosis on that statement from Herman after the game?
“He was absolutely right.”
The difference is that this version of head coach Bill Snyder’s Wildcats isn’t as talented or cohesive as past teams. More critical to the eventual outcome of Saturday’s game, Snyder is struggling to find the right quarterback with a new offensive staff that prefers Skylar Thompson, who is a better passer than Alex Delton, Saturday’s starter.
A power struggle between Snyder and his assistants came to a head last week, when Snyder unilaterally pulled Thompson from the game against West Virginia for changing a fourth-down call at the line of scrimmage.
As a result, Delton got the call against Texas in the first half, but the Kansas State offense largely struggled in the first half, as the running game couldn’t get much traction and it was clear that Delton’s passing ability wasn’t a threat at all to the Longhorns defense.
Coming out of halftime, Snyder’s better sense took over — or that of his offensive staff — as Thompson replaced Delton and the passing game immediately came to life, ultimately helping helping Kansas State score on two of four possessions in the second half.
According to Snyder and his team, however, what really changed was the attitude of an offensive line that had struggled throughout the season.
“I applaud our offensive line,” Snyder said. “Our offensive line had an approach and an attitude leaving the locker room in the second half which I have not seen this year. It was one of anger. There was a determination, which is something that has been big in my terminology for a couple weeks, to be successful. To win the battle, to win up front, and they did. Not always, but a good portion of the time. I think they had the biggest impact on scoring a couple times in the second half.”
In fact, the Wildcats entered the game with one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country, even though performances through the first four games didn’t reflect that physical maturity. Through the first four games, the group had allowed 14 sacks and 35 tackles for loss.
With that renewed mindset on the offensive line in the second half, Kansas State limited the number of negative plays after senior defensive end Charles Omenihu produced two big sacks in the first half, including a safety. The only major issue in the second half came when senior defensive end Breckyn Hager sacked Thompson and forced a fumble. Once gain, however, the offensive line responded, falling on the football to avoid what would have been the game’s only turnover.
The Kansas State defense played well enough, too, forcing two punts by Texas and keeping the Longhorns out of the end zone on a long drive that ultimately resulted in a missed field goal by freshman kicker Cameron Dicker.
While the victory wasn’t exactly pretty for the Longhorns and the coaching job by Snyder wasn’t up to his historical standards, Herman wasn’t surprised by what happened in Manhattan after his conversation with Brown earlier in the week. So Herman was inclined to put things into perspective following the game.
“Not to take anything away from Coach Snyder and the job that his team did, but we won ugly,” Herman said. “But the key word in there is ‘won.’ They’re all going to look pretty on Sunday when you wake up. The flight is shorter, the food tastes better, you get better sleep, you sleep in a little later when you win. We did not play our best, but we found a way to do so in critical times which I think was important.”
After all, the team used to winning ugly in Manhattan was on the other sidelines.