Image via USA Today
Texas opened their 2017 season and the Tom Herman era yesterday. They took on Maryland and the Terps pulled off the 51-41 upset to shock a lot of people. I started doing this type of Sunday post last year. As it’s hard to really put all the right thoughts together for a post just 30 minutes or an hour after a game. Especially like the one we saw at DKR yesterday. In a lot of ways, the game looked a lot like things did when Charlie Strong was at the helm for Texas. I’ve said for awhile that I see Texas winning 7-8 games in 2017, but there were still some major things I overlooked with this team and it showed on Saturday. And here are some of my thoughts…
– Like they did under Strong, Texas was punched in the mouth in the first quarter. After the Holton Hill pick six, Texas gave up 27 straight points capped off by a 46 yard TD pass from a QB that reminds me of Jerrod Heard as a passer. I will say this, QB Tyrrell Pigrome looked like a much improved passer yesterday compared to how he looked in Maryland’s Spring game. That’s something that a Texas player admitted after the game in talking to the media.
– The Texas offense drove deep into Maryland territory at least 4 times, and came away with 0 points. That is completely unacceptable if you want to win a football game. It didn’t matter if it was missed FG’s, passes to Chris Warren and Garrett Gray on the goal line instead of Collin Johnson or Lil’Jordan Humphrey, or something else. The Texas offense just couldn’t get it done. And like last year, the Texas offense and defense couldn’t play at a high level at the same time during the game and it cost them big.
– The major issue I overlooked was the loss of TE Andrew Beck. I’m not sure what the issue is the grad transfer TE Kendall Moore and why he wasn’t used as a blocker at all vs Maryland. He was recruited by a lot of schools out of HS as an OT and he was known as a blocking TE. Garrett Gray just hasn’t played TE for a long time and just isn’t a very good blocker at all. I was told during camp that freshman Reese Leitao was running with the 1’s and 2’s because of his ability to block. So we’ll see what happens with him when he returns for Week 3 at USC. The loss of an solid blocking TE really hurt the run game, especially in system like Herman’s where the play-action is so important for the passing game.
– Speaking of the run game, the main time it had a good amount success was with Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Jerrod Heard running the ball from the QB spot with Chris Warren or Kyle Porter as their lead blocker. Shane Buechele just doesn’t run well enough and I’m not sure you’d want him taking those hits from that package. But I do know of one QB who was a really really good power runner in HS. Just saying, if I’m Tim Beck or Tom Herman I’m getting that package ready for Sam Ehlinger for San Jose State and the future if it’s not already installed. Now I’m not saying Buechele should lose the starting job, but with the recruiting class Herman has right now he can’t risk having a 5-6 win season. He needs to do whatever to win games.
– My biggest issue with the defense and Todd Orlando had to do with one thing. It seemed like he had a very complex game-plan with multiple packages of coverages, blitzes and other things. When in reality, Maryland wasn’t doing anything that special, and some of the packages Orlando put together made things easier for the Maryland O. Like bringing DeShon Elliott off the edge to blitz multiple times when Maryland was beating Texas right up the middle in the A-gap. Not outside. Orlando is one of the best in the business, and I bet he ends up taking a similar route to what Charlie Strong started to do with the defense and just simplify some things so there is less thinking, and more playing fast.
– Texas did have some halftime adjustments that really helped them get back in the game. They turned a 30-14 deficit into a 37-34 deficit in the 3rd quarter. That’s something we haven’t seen at all in the last few years. The biggest thing with the offense was that they OL finally starting having success in pass protection. That’s also when they had Heard and Humphrey take some carries out of the backfield and the run game gained some momentum. I haven’t looked back at the game, but I believe Tristen Nickelson played the majority of the second half at RT.
– It was an ugly game, and from the questionable defensive calls in terms of outside blitzes vs inside runs. Or the red zone play calling, or the 11 penalties for 117 yards. There was a lot more of Texas beating Texas than Maryland beating Texas when you go back and think about some stuff. And with Week 1 in CFB, it can be a guessing game at times due to lack of film on new players (like Tyrrell Pigrome). Now there is no way Herman and his team should be given an excuse in a game they should’ve won. So now it’s time for Tom Herman to show us why he got this job, and will his team bounce back from this loss and use it as a humbling experience? Or will it turn into another bad season in Austin? We’ll find out…