Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: Belief, conviction and … fairy dust? Tom Herman saw it all against San Jose State

Posted September 9th, 2017

What was that falling from the skies above Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon?

At first it was hard to make out from our spot in the South end zone.

A guess came to mind as a smiling Tom Herman walked off the field with his family to cheers.

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Don’t quote me on this, but it sure had the look of fairy dust.

It’s official. For the panicked ones out there, Herman won’t go winless in his Austin tenure. The Horns are 1-1, baby.

Texas defensive back Holton Hill (5) celebrates his touchdown with defensive back Kris Boyd (2) after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against San Jose State in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September 9, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“We’re not a finished product,” Herman said in the biggest understatement of the day.

It’s just good to see them get started. The 56-0 win over San Jose State revealed a few things about the 2017 Longhorns:

  • Herman has a quarterback quandary on his hands. Shane Buechele? Sam Ehlinger? Juice Heard?
  • The defense made some plays on the front and back ends. Cornerback Holton Hill should add himself to the QB mix because he’s a touchdown machine.
  • There’s some bounce-back in that locker room. No one expected Maryland to come in here and punk Texas in the opener, but the Terps laid the smackdown on the Horns. The Horns responded by playing with pride and a quiet sense of desperation that should have accompanied them onto the field in the first game.
  • The fans haven’t completely bought in to the Herman Plan. Call it a lack of interest in the opponent or general early-season apathy, but many stayed away for the 2:30 kickoff. It’s almost like they all moved to Missouri and shouted one big “Show Me” to the local team and its new coach.

Herman was smart enough to know when he signed up for his dream job that there might be some nightmare moments.

Like the first game, for instance. No Texas team had ever given up 50 points in a home opener, but it happened.

Longhorn players celebrate on the sidelines during Texas’ 56-0 win over San Jose State on Saturday at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Then came the comment that got a minor national brouhaha started.

“If we all thought that we were going to come in here and in nine months sprinkle some fairy dust on this team and think that we’ve arrived, then we’re wrong,” Herman said following the 51-41 loss.

Apparently Urban Meyer, his former boss at Ohio State, reads up on his college football or watches SportsCenter because he didn’t hold his tongue when asked about Tom’s comment.

“It’s like a new generation of excuse,” he told CBSSports.com. “He said, ‘I can’t rub pixie dust on this thing.’ He got a dose of reality. Maryland just scored 51 points on you. [Blaming players] drives me insane.”

Herman took the silent approach when asked for a response on Thursday, swaying the conversation back to getting his team ready or its next game.

Turns out they were ready for the Spartans. Much better in all areas, even behind a quarterback who had never played in a college game. It was evident that the coaching staff was out to make sure there was no carryover. On at least seven instances during the week, someone said, “We can’t let Maryland beat us twice.”

“Basically he just kept everyone’s head up,” Jerrod Heard said. “I think his focus wasn’t really trying to make a point or prove a point. He knows that we’ve got each other’s back and we’re the only guys we can lean on. He really helped all of us to gain that confidence and still stay motivated to (know) that we still have a long season ahead of us.”

They played with belief, and that’s a word that was thrown around quite a few times in the offseason and in the days after the Maryland beatdown. Belief is fine. There’s nothing wrong with instilling in your team the right mindset to use on a day-to-day basis. We saw that Saturday and so did Herman.

“I saw a team that could allowed the disappointment to be distracting, that could allowed the disappointment to affect their intensity level, that could have allowed the disappointment to lead to doubt of who we are and what we do,” he said. “They did none of that.”

Belief is so important in competition. Belief is walking on a to a field with the hope that it will work out in the end because you put in the work at practice and in the film room. Belief can win you a lot of games.

Conviction is more important because it’s belief with a splash of confidence/arrogance. Conviction is taking the field knowing that even when bad things happen, you will find a way to get it done.

That’s where Herman hopes to take this team.

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