AUSTIN, Texas — Tom Herman has often talked about how the culture within his Texas program is such that the opinions of the players, coaches and staff members within the organization are the only opinions that matter. With that said, the Texas head coach took issue with what he said following a 27-24 win over No. 16 Kansas State on Saturday has been misinformation written and said about the state of his team in recent weeks.
Texas (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) needed the comeback victory over K-State (6-3, 3-3) in a bad way. A 37-27 loss to TCU on Oct. 26 sent the Longhorns into an open date on the schedule coming off of a run of games where they needed a walk-off field goal to beat lowly Kansas at home on Oct. 19, 50-48, and looked out of sync in an Oct. 5 road win over West Virginia, 42-31.
The Longhorns remain squarely in the mix for a berth in the Big 12 championship game with the victory over the Wildcats. After calling Saturday’s effort where his charges had to battle back from a 14-0 deficit in the first quarter a “fantastic team win” in his opening statement. Herman took the media to task for reports he felt painted an inaccurate portrait of the current state of affairs on the Forty Acres.
“With what these guys have been through these last few weeks and all the misinformation that's been out there and said and written about this team and the attitude and togetherness of this team — teams that aren't together, teams that don't love each other, teams that are splintered, teams that are selfish don't go down 14-0,” Herman said. “We can't get off the field on defense, can't do anything on offense, teams that are all those things, they splinter and it turns into a blowout. They wave the white flag and it could have been a really, really bad scene in DKR. The win is obviously very important for us in what we wanted to accomplish tonight, but the way that it happened, to go down 14-0 in the blink of an eye in the first two drives.
“Obviously, we had the awful special teams mistake (a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by K-State’s Joshua Youngblood in the fourth quarter) that led to a touchdown, but then to outscore them 27-3 from an offensive and defensive perspective, to have more time of possession and the (No. 3-ranked) team in the country [in] the time of possession, to rush for 214 yards... and hold them to 51 yards rushing, teams that don't believe, teams that don't have confidence, teams that aren't together and play for each other, that doesn't happen,” he added. “Obviously, extremely proud of the win, but maybe — not maybe — definitely, more importantly, the things that this crew has been through these last few weeks, to overcome what they overcame, it was special. I'm really proud of them.”
Asked a few moments later about “what’s bothered him specifically about what’s apparently been out there,” Herman referred to comments he made Thursday on two different occasions.
“I've been on record both on my radio show and Thursday night just when people print, you know, fifth-hand information and it gets said as fact — that's irresponsible, in my opinion,” Herman said. “But, you know, it comes with the territory. We knew what we signed up for when we came to Texas and the fans have very high expectations, as they should, and we do too.
“We know the pulse of the team and we know those guys in that locker room, really, really, really do a great job playing for each other.”
Prior to the recent good fortune the Longhorns have come into beginning with the commitment of Hutto athlete Dajon Harrison to the 2020 class, the current recruiting cycle saw the Longhorns lose three verbal commitments — Manor four-star defensive end Princely Umanmielen, four-star Aldine MacArthur cornerback Joshua Eaton and four-star Winter Park (Fla.) cornerback Ethan Pouncey — in the month of October.
More pertinent to Herman’s concern about perceived internal strife, Texas has recently seen true freshman offensive lineman Javonne Shepherd and sophomore wide receiver Jordan Pouncey enter the NCAA transfer portal (Herman, for what it’s worth, offered nothing but praise for Pouncey on Thursday, calling him an “unbelievable teammates” who “did a lot of really good things” while wishing him well in the future, wherever he winds up next).
What seemed to serve as the burr under Herman’s saddle were online reports of players said to be having a tough time dealing with the rough patch the Longhorns (and perhaps the players personally) were going through.
Herman addressed the topic following Thursday’s practice when asked if he completed the one-on-one interviews he had scheduled with members of the 2019 recruiting class.
Telling reporters during his weekly press conference on Monday that he had a few interviews left to go, Herman said Thursday the interviews were completed.
“They’re great,” Herman said when asked about the status of his relationships with the 2019 signees.
At that point, Herman outlined the kind of potential scenario he’s found to be unsavory.
“I said on my radio show today that, you know, stuff that gets reported, that industry plays a giant game of telephone. You know, the little kid game that you whisper and it's, you know, mom calls Johnny: 'Johnny. How you doing?' [Johnny:] ‘Mom, it's hard. You know, it's a grind,’” Herman said. “Mom calls dad: 'Hey, I just talked to Johnny. He says it's really hard. I don't really like the way sounds. Dad calls high school coach or trainer: ‘Hey, Johnny, sounds real unhappy. We're not quite sure.’ Then, trainer or high school coach or whoever calls internet guy and says, 'Hey, Johnny's really unhappy at Texas He's not quite sure about anything. And then, you know, that's what's printed.
“The good thing is that I've got the best seat in the house,” he added. “These are all young men that are very mature and are very honest and it has been a joy to be around them last week and then, obviously, on Monday, to get their perspective and really, truthfully be reassured by all of them that, yeah, being a freshman, especially those guys that got here in June, it's really hard Week 9, Week 10 of the season getting adjusted to everything. But all of them are very committed to this program and to fighting through the wall that they hit and I'm proud of them. Really proud of them.”
What Herman was also proud of following the win was that the Longhorns head into next week’s road game at Iowa State (5-4, 3-3) carrying a few positives with them. Texas won the rushing yardage battle over K-State in a landslide, 214-51, the defense forced a turnover and kept the Wildcats out of the end zone in the second half (2.76 yards per play allowed, 0-for-4 on third-down conversions), and the kicking game turned a 53-yard punt return by Brandon Jones (which set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Keaontay Ingram in the fourth quarter) along with a 26-yard game-winning field goal at the gun by Cameron Dicker.
With a largely forgettable October in their rearview mirror, Texas will travel to Ames next Saturday (2:30 p.m., FS1) feeling good about where things stand for the first time in what feels like a long time.
“Obviously, we put ourselves on the ropes and we took a step towards swinging and clawing and scratching our way off, but we know we've got to go on the road this week and continue to try to get off the ropes,” Herman said. “But doing it with this level of confidence helps.”