The pats on the back can quickly turn to stabs with college football fans. That’s what’s currently happening with the Texas Longhorns football faithful.
Less than 11 months off a 10-win season that culminated in a Sugar Bowl victory against one of the nation’s top programs, Texas fans are calling into question everything they lauded about head coach Tom Herman just a few months ago.
Suddenly, Todd Orlando — the million dollar defensive coordinator that Texas couldn’t afford to live without — is the least popular man on the Forty Acres.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck — who has spanned the spectrum from incompetent dope to ingenious quarterback whisperer — now has no business coordinating a high school offense.
Herman, who was praised for his ability to revive a dead-on-arrival Texas program, is now arrogant and in over his head — according to dozens of Twitter eggs who apparently knew all along he would ultimately fail in Austin.
Even Sam Ehlinger, who passed Vince Young last Saturday for second-most total touchdowns as a Texas quarterback, is now second-class to undefeated SMU quarterback Shane Buechele. (Unless you’re Longhorn legend Earl Campbell, in which case you have a slightly different and ridiculously stupid take.)
Weeks like this give Kirk Herbstreit’s cesspool rant some merit.
So yeah, a week off from this shit couldn’t have come at a better time.
But outside of all the horrible takes, and there are many of them floating around the internet this week, Texas needs a bye week for another reason.
To get healthy.
Herman said Wednesday that safety Caden Sterns and running back Jordan Whittington are back at practice this week. Whittington — a consensus five-star talent out of Cuero — hasn’t had a meaningful snap all season.
In his absence, a backup true freshman quarterback has been filling in at running back.
Safety DeMarvion Overshown also returned to practice this week, alongside fellow safety BJ Foster — who is practicing in a green jersey but still back getting reps.
At the linebacker spot, senior Jeffrey McCulloch is expected to return to practice this week after dislocating his shoulder against Oklahoma in early October.
“All those guys are trending in the right direction to be available to us next Saturday,” Herman said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a dinged up Texas secondary has left a handful of true freshman playing in critical moments of conference games — a combination that never mixes well in the Big 12.
Just ask Tyler Owens, a true freshman safety who was forced into action against TCU after only seeing meaningful snaps on special teams. Understandably, he struggled, giving up a few big pass plays, including a game-sealing reception to Jalen Reagor.
With a week off, Texas can rest the handful of players that have been dinged up through the first eight weeks of the season in hopes that they can return against Kansas State on Nov. 9. Coaches can focus on fundamentals and player development for a full week rather than installing game plans for conference opponents.
And that matters, because — and this might come as a a surprise to many Texas fans — the season isn’t over.
The Longhorns can still compete for a Big 12 Championship. If Texas and Oklahoma win out, as unlikely as it might be, they will meet in Dallas once again with a conference title on the line.
How could a program on the decline in late October have that kind of optimism?
One year ago this week, coming off a disappointing loss against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Texas fell to West Virginia. Fans sprinted to the nearest cliff.
Absurdly enough, everything turned out fine.
That’s not to say that criticism isn’t warranted. It’s completely fair to be upset with the lack of significant progress in 2019 and some of the baffling coaching decisions that have accompanied 2019 losses.
But it’s completely ridiculous to act like Texas is no better off than it was when Charlie Strong was still coach.
Get mad all you want. Fire all the coaches and clean house on Twitter. Upload your credit card for the $9.95/mo behind-the-scenes gossip and measured message board takes.
But just know there are four more games this year — with only one of them being a true road game.
The hardest part of the season is over and, like it or not, Texas still has a shot.