When Tom Herman first arrived at Texas, he reiterated time and time again that his team would be the most physical and disciplined on the field. That was not the case today. After a promising start to the game with a Holton Hill pick six on Maryland’s first pass attempt, the Longhorns fell apart – in every aspect. Although Texas tried to mount a comeback during several crucial moments of the game, Maryland always struck back. Although the results speak for themselves, it’s necessary to dive in deeper to this game and what exactly happened.
The offense was decent at times, and at other times bewildering. First of all, Texas has absolutely no rushing attack. The offensive line got out-physicaled by Maryland’s front four practically the entire game, which did not help Kyle Porter and Chris Warren III. That being said, I am still baffled as to why Porter is playing over Warren. Don’t get me wrong – Porter is a talented running back. But he’s not Chris Warren. Sometimes, backs have to create holes for themselves and use their vision to gain positive yardage. For Porter, that trait is not developed. Instead, Porter hesitates when hitting the holes, and is not big or strong enough to shake off tacklers in open space. Yes, he’s shifty, but that only matters if he can get to the second level. The coaching staff raved about Porter the entire offseason, and I now wonder if that’s because the Texas run defense is so bad that they misguided Stan Drayton. The blame, however, does not solely fall on the running backs. The Texas offensive line, said to be one of the strongest units on the team (aside from RT) were dominated the entire game. Even All-American LT Connor Williams struggled towards the end of regulation, in which he accumulated two costly holding penalties. The RB’s seldom had holes to run through, and Shane Buechele was under pressure inside the pocket all day long. A big reason for that was a lack of an abled body at the TE position. Converted WR-to-TE Garrett Gray got the start for Texas today, and his inexperience showed. Gray may have soft hands, but his blocking ability is subpar at best. The loss of Andrew Beck and the only real TE on the team hurts in a major way. Considering the circumstances, Buechele and his receivers had a decent day overall.
Shane Buechele ☠️☠️☠️ pic.twitter.com/JT0VGOkFwO
— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) September 2, 2017
The main disappointment on offense was offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s play calling. More often than not, Beck made highly questionable calls that did not place his unit in the best position to succeed. In short yardage situations, Beck often made repetitive and predictable play calls. The Longhorns went for it on 4th down three times today, and failed to convert once. In one situation later in the game, Beck elected to go for a 4th down conversion at midfield instead of letting All-American Michael Dickson pin freshman QB Kaism Hill deep. As a result, the Longhorns turned the ball over on downs and Maryland scored seven plays later. Although there were some bright spots, Tim Beck did not help his team today. Scoring only 21 points on offense is not enough to win in the Big 12. Tim Beck and his offense have a lot of work to do.
The Texas defense gave Texas fans horrifying flashbacks of the 2016 season. The Terrapins rushed for 263 yards on offense, frequently attacking Texas right up the gut for big gains. Where Todd Orlando is well-known for his extravagant schemes and the toughness of his players, that was clearly lacking today. More often than not, Orlando brought too much pressure or not enough pressure at the wrong times. For example, DeShon Elliot was brought up to the box in a running situation, but had nobody behind him to provide assistance. Once the Maryland rusher got to the second level, it was off to the races. Speaking of miscues, the Texas secondary did not look like the talented bunch that has been praised all offseason. The only defender that lived up to the standard was Holton Hill. Kris Boyd was beat in coverage all day. Brandon Jones looked lost and had no idea how to get off blocks. PJ Locke was nonexistent the entire game. This is not the physical defense that Orlando has a reputation of building. Granted, it’s only the first game – but not a promising sign regardless. I lost count of how many poor angles defenders took as well as the poor effort at getting off blocks.
— Dust Valley Sports (@DustValleySprts) September 2, 2017
The most concerning aspect of the defense’s performance has to be the run game. Once a rusher got to the second level, it was a foot race. It seems like Orlando’s LB’s are not hitting the proper gaps, or maybe his DL is not getting enough penetration up front. Whatever it is, this unit clearly lacks the physicality and discipline that is needed to succeed. If the Texas defense cannot hold the Terrapins to under 51 points, how will they fare in the Big 12? If they don’t improve dramatically, not great. The first step is stopping the run.
Surprisingly, this unit had the best performance of the day despite several miscues. First, it began with a missed 42-yard FG from Joshua Rowland. Then, on Rowland’s next attempt, the kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Not an ideal start on special teams for Tom Herman. Then, the tides began to turn. On a Maryland FG attempt, senior DT Poona Ford got a hand up and blocked the attempt, which resulted in a 65-yard touchdown return from none other than Holton Hill. Shortly after in the second half, Reggie Hemphill returned a punt for 91-yards and the score, thanks to a miraculous block by Malik Jefferson. While special teams did not score a single touchdown for Texas last season, this unit scored twice for Texas today and in large part kept the Longhorns in the game. Although there were several miscues that led to points, they can be fixed. I have faith that Tom Herman can sort this unit out, but that appears to be the least of his worries at the moment.
— Hookem Football (@hornsfootball) September 2, 2017
Overall, the Longhorns just did not appear prepared today. That just goes to show you that preseason hype is worthless if the results do not match on the gridiron. College football opening weekend can be a spectacular or heartbreaking thing. For Texas fans, this instance was unfortunately the latter. That does not mean that the Longhorn faithful should abandon ship. As the Texas coaching staff emphasizes time and time again, take it one game at a time. One loss does not mean the season is over. Texas fans are tired of a decade of mediocrity, and want the results immediately. At some point, they will come. But right now Tom Herman has many issues to address. Until they can be fixed, Texas fans will just have to do what they’ve done for the past decade – remain faithful and keep going. It’s the only thing any football fan can do.