The Texas Longhorns endured their first big test on the national stage on Saturday against the USC Trojans. The 27-24 double overtime loss provided plenty to be optimistic about, as well as highlighting where the ‘Horns are still a work in progress.
Here are five thoughts and key takeaways after Texas’ first real challenge under Tom Herman.
Tom Herman is serious about winning
He doesn't want the team to feel satisfied with a "close" loss. The message is IT'S A LOSS — AND WE CONTROL THAT! His words to the team breaks it down quite simply:
“I told ’em in the locker room there’s no moral victories in college football. They don’t put loss and in parenthesis say, ‘Yeah, but they played really hard.’ That doesn’t happen. It’s amazing how many mistakes your team can overcome “with attitude and effort.”
The defense will give the ‘Horns a chance to win close games
The shutout Texas pitched against SJSU was just that - against SJSU. But the defense played with a toughness and intensity that we have not seen in Austin in many years. Texas used to PRIDE itself on defense — used to. Todd Orlando has been putting in some work with his units and he and his staff have lit a fire under these talented players. The talent was there, but the intensity was not.
KEY STAT: The defense has yet to allow a 4th down conversion this season.
Texas could win the Big 12 in year one under Herman.
The record says Texas is 1-2; a losing team with a worse record than last year's start. And yet this season is NOT the same in any way like last year's 2-1 start. Looking ahead to the Big 12 conference slate, the defense that took a top-five team to double overtime on the road will give Texas a chance to compete and improve on the offensive side of the ball.
Herman will keep learning what works and what doesn't on the offense. As long as Herman insists on DRIVING the O, and not being a CEO, improvement will come. So yes, it's a tall order with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and most of the league ready to fire off more points than Texas can currently match — in the Big 12, you have to put up a lot of points to win. Texas seemingly has the defense. Now Herman just needs to sprinkle a little more pixie dust on the offense to give the ‘Horns a chance to shock and take the conference back from perennial champ Oklahoma.
Connor Williams Is A First Round NFL Draft Pick.
Connor Williams keeps proving what we already knew — he's destined for the NFL. Sam Ehlinger was sacked five times after Williams exited with a knee injury and Texas’ ground game sputtered, as well. His injury was confirmed later by Texas to be more serious — Williams tore his meniscus and will require surgery. His recovery time and return timeline are unknown, and that could certainly impact his decision for the draft. What is known is that Connor Williams is destined for the NFL.
Texas should have gone for two
Herman didn’t go undefeated against ranked foes by playing it safe. In his seventh match up against a ranked team, Herman took his first loss, and it came on a critical mistake — he had his team lined up to win. Right there with victory within his grasp, Herman let his killer instinct subside. In this unique situation, when you finally put your team in position to WIN — YOU HAVE TO GO FOR IT.
That said, this was a rare situation — A primetime matchup against a top five foe — and you’ve struggled to produce offensively, but you’re here. ‘Here’ is when you go for it. Perhaps Herman did not feel his offense was struggling since he was, after all, in overtime. And perhaps he was just leaning on a defense that looking mighty impressive. And in all fairness to Herman, hindsight is always 20/20:
“Obviously, hindsight’s 20/20. Had you told me, hey, if you go into double-overtime, you’re going to fumble it, then yeah, I probably would have gone for two.”
One thing is for certain as we look ahead, the future of Texas football is bright: