Has the Hype Around Herman Hurt the Longhorns?
They say a game cannot be won in the first quarter, but you sure can lose one that early. That's exactly what happened last night in Ames, Iowa, when the Texas Longhorns defeated Iowa State 17-7.
For example, the first Longhorn drive looked dead to rights when Sophomore Quarterback Shane Buechele was sacked by JaQuan Bailey at his own 17 yard-line. Bailey then overzealously celebrated the sack and was penalized for it, giving Texas' drive a second life and an automatic first down. Nine plays later, the Longhorns scored on an 11-yard run by junior Chris Warren III. While Warren may have scored the touchdown, the game had essentially been decided because Bailey's celebration that kept the Longhorn's drive alive.
The slim, Thursday night win over a better-than-average Iowa State team offered many answers for a Texas defense looking to repeat what they did against USC, while presenting a throng of questions regarding the Longhorn's offense. Last night, much like the USC loss, Texas rode the stellar defensive play of Junior defensive-back DeShon Elliot, who had two interceptions, a sack, and six tackles, while, much unlike the USC loss, the offense struggled throughout for Texas.
"[The defense] learned a very costly but valuable lesson in the Maryland game," Head Coach Tom Herman said in his postgame press conference. "You can't play great defense if...you're tiptoeing. You have to stick your foot in the ground and go."
Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando is one of the best at what he does. Just look at what he did with the "Third Ward Defense" at the University of Houston under Tom Herman. But, contrary to popular belief, good defensive play alone won't win a Big 12 title with the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU lurking with offenses that operate on jet fuel.
Buechele, the supposed savior of UT after 2016's Labor Day win over Notre Dame, looked, well, OK in his first game in two weeks. The sophomore went 19-for-26 and a meager 171 yards passing with one touchdown. While the sophomore's play could be attributed to his long layoff due to injury, fans expect a leader like him, with the hype surrounding the team upon Herman's arrival, to not miss a step at any point in the season, and rightly so.
Maybe this was just one of those games where teams struggle. After all, Herman praised the Iowa State defense after the game for "playing different fronts and coverages" the Longhorn coaching staff hadn't seen in the two-plus years of ISU's game film they studied before the game. This is the first time Buechele and Texas' offense has struggled this season, and it came against a middle-of-the-road team.
Consistency is lacking for the Longhorns. We've seen the Austinites rise up for games against Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and USC recently. That same passion shown on the big stage against high profile opponents needs to find it's way to the smaller stages against lesser opponents, or else Tom Herman's first year could be less than memorable.