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The Whys of Texas: Angry, baffling mailbag responses to Tom Herman’s debut

Posted September 6th, 2017

The 2017 season is upon us, and the Whys of Texas is back for another season. Of course, given what we all witnessed last Saturday, I’m not sure my inbox can take all the fireballs being emailed my way.

“I mean, the team is disappointed, certainly, we all are, the fans, students, players, but nobody’s more disappointed than our players and coaches,” UT coach Tom Herman said Monday. “But we can’t let disappointment turn into distraction.”

Herman said everybody knows what happened. For example, everyone knows that another blocked field goal was returned for a touchdown. We all saw some bad defensive play that led to 51 Maryland points. The question is why, Herman said.

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Texas is likely to fix some of its problems against San Jose State, but realistically, will that satisfy anybody? Nope. The real test comes the following week at USC. Herman had a real knack for getting Houston ready in big games. That certainly qualifies.

There were no changes on the depth chart this week for San Jose State. I would expect the coaching staff to spend the week working on improvements, not wholesale personnel changes on a team that’s already thin once you get past the starting 22.

RELATED: Bohls: Proper hydration levels and great body language will get Texas only so far

On to this week’s reader questions. Let’s start with Eddie’s email where the subject line was “Help I’m in an abusive relationship…”

Damn it, Brian. Every year I believe. I go out and buy new Longhorn gear, make my 6-year old wear nothing but Longhorns gear and every year here lately they just take my love and throw it away! This year with the hire of Tom Herman, I actually thought my love would be requited but alas I was wrong. So very wrong. — Eddie

And this was one of the cleaner ones!

What I want to know is, will Tom Terrific be forced to eat cold pancakes and Spam sandwiches much like the bad food he served to underperforming Longhorn players. With USC coming up, he should be eating bad food for the next 2 weeks until he plays a patsy. — Benito

The food situation was front and center throughout offseason workouts. For those who missed it, Herman and the coaching staff would have near-daily contests to determine winners and losers. The winners got to eat fantastic meals. The losers had soggy pancakes, runny grits, baloney sandwiches, etc. Believe it or not, some inside the UT athletic department disagreed with that approach. One person told me they were philosophically against messing with the players’ meals. To each their own, I suppose.

I hope the press gets on the UT coaching staff big time!  There has been no improvement, and in some respects, the team even looks worse than 2016. Take the kid gloves off.  Herman looks like a lot of hype (talk), and no production. In his post game interview, he never faulted the coaching staff’s contribution to the loss (and we were supposed to win on defense?). Give Herman some heat, and let’s see if he can stay in the kitchen.  I wonder if he still wants to play A&M? — JD, Laredo

You could tell in the post-game press conference and during Monday’s get-together that Herman had been humbled. That doesn’t necessarily mean he should change his ways. Sure, he was knocked off stride. But Herman said the coaches have a phrase — “We ain’t changing.” That means this coaching staff knows their way works, so they’re going to keep doing what they are doing. Herman said that means less yelling, more teaching. I think it’s fair to say that Thomas Joseph Herman III knows he doesn’t work at Houston anymore.

Herman also said only starters on specialty teams yet put a freshman in. On top of everything else now I have to take what he says with a grain of salt. — Gary

Well, hold on a minute. Herman never said every starter would be on special teams. The bulk of special teams is made up with starting players. But it was disheartening to see freshman Daniel Young basically let the ball hit the turf on a kickoff return. That’s basic stuff. You don’t need to be a senior to know you should catch the kickoff. Fans had to be demoralized watching Maryland return yet another blocked field goal for a touchdown. Herman was the special teams coach during his days at Iowa State. I really thought that’d be one area fans wouldn’t have to worry about one bit.

RELATED: Longhorns put Maryland loss behind them as QB Sam Ehlinger takes the controls

I got up at 6 a.m. to watch this – deja vu – of a game.  Actually, that game rolled back time to Manny Diaz’s defenseless defense with absolutely NO gap discipline by the linebackers and no tackling/poor cover by the secondary. I am absolutely stunned at how bad they looked. I get to miss the next 3 games due to travel. I fear 0-4 is on the doorstep. Old habits die hard. — Ed, Hawaii

Fox Sports 1 actually pointed out a bad play where both Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler shot up to the line, and the Maryland running back simply ran straight through the gap, right between them and took off. Herman said the UT defense beat the offense in three August scrimmages. “Our defense is hard to prepare for,” he said, more than once. He had supreme confidence in defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, and Herman likely still does. I think an 0-4 start would be cataclysmic. Sure, USC will be difficult, but that Thursday night game at Iowa State suddenly looks extremely dangerous.

Until we prove otherwise against a quality opponent, one has to assume our pitiful performance against Maryland is who we are and not just a 1-game hiccup.  Time will tell. — Newt

This was the question I asked in Monday’s paper. Was the Maryland loss a one-game hiccup or a true reflection of what the Longhorns really are? My guess is that a lot of fans are hoping it’s the former. But what if it is indeed the latter?

I was extremely disappointed in the columns of Golden and Bohls, even yours, concerning your analysis of Saturday’s game. The analysis was far too long and made no sense to anyone who watched the game. Simply, the offensive and defensive lines were no better than any Austin high school’s. Maryland had more players in UT’s backfield than we did whatever the formation. — Owen

On Monday, Herman was asked whether his offensive line was “manhandled.” It’s the only time in two press conferences where he clearly stiffened and did not like that phrase. “Manhandle wouldn’t be the adjective that I’d use,” he said. It’s actually hard to say you got manhandled when blitzing linebackers are literally running by Jake McMillon without being touched. Or when Denzel Okafor whiffs on his block. Herman compared this UT offensive line to the same group at Ohio State that won the 2014 national title. I’m guessing he’d like a mulligan on that statement.

While it likely doesn’t totally explain the continuing losing culture with the Texas Longhorns, a couple of questions that should be asked: 1. How many of the Longhorn football team are from areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey? 2. Did they know the status of their families and loved ones?  The homes they grew up in?  Their friends? 3. How many of them are first team players? This kind of devastation can be extremely distracting, causing them to lose focus or be unable to maintain focus Just a thought. Probably a question that has been asked and answered already. — Mike

Herman said 21 players hail from the Houston area and other places damaged by Hurricane Harvey. All had checked in on their families and all were reported safe. That doesn’t mean that everyone’s homes and possessions were OK, but that’s all relative. Frankly, I thought it was fantastic that Houston native Holton Hill got the early pick-six and scored on the blocked field goal. One of the team’s Houston players deserved to have something good happen. Make no mistake, those families will be dealing with Harvey’s destruction for weeks (months?) to come. Just the fact that everyone was safe was the best news of all.

Got a question for the Whys of Texas mailbag? Contact Brian Davis at bdavis@statesman.com.

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