Longhorns coach Tom Herman addresses team’s stance on ‘The Eyes of Texas’

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Longhorns football team has an open date on the schedule this week, which gives everyone the ability to stew even longer on the 53-45 quadruple overtime loss to Oklahoma over the weekend.

Longhorns head coach Tom Herman says the team will use this week to focus within and improve after a poor start to the season.

After the Red River Showdown loss, much of the focus from the fanbase pointed to an image, captured by KXAN’s Roger Wallace, of Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger on the field acknowledging fans during the school song, “The Eyes of Texas.”

To be clear, Ehlinger wasn’t the only player that remained on the field after the game, but it is still an image that has drawn up emotions from all aspects of the program.

In June, Longhorns athletes across multiple sports called on the university to eliminate the song and several other symbols around campus to support racial inclusivity.

University of Texas leadership said in July it would keep “The Eyes of Texas” as a school song, but it will “own, acknowledge and teach about the origins” of the song as it moves forward “while partnering with the campus community to reimagine its future as a song that unites all Longhorns.”

Last week, the university created a new committee to chronicle the history behind the song, UT President Jay Hartzell announced. 

During the early portion of the football season, Texas has played the song before and after the game, but players have not been required to stand or acknowledge the song. At UT home games, the song has been played immediately as the clock has hit zero, allowing fans to sing the song while the players were greeting their opponent or walking off the field.

On Monday, Herman opened his weekly press conference with a prepared statement about the team’s stance toward “The Eyes of Texas” and its plans moving forward.

Opening statement on “The Eyes of Texas”

“President Hartzell, Chris Del Conte both shared information last week on where we are with our school song. There are very strong emotions on both sides and this is something that we’ve been working on since our campus initiatives were announced back in July. As a football program, we’ve discussed this and will continue to. I’ve encouraged our staff and team to join me in participating after games, if they are comfortable doing. I do believe it’s important to acknowledge our fans and thank them after the game. Sam Ehlinger and some of our team did join me in standing with the fans, who had cheered us so hard and helped us greatly in our comeback against Oklahoma. I applaud them and respect that. Many coaches and staff also remained on the field with them to show appreciation to our great university and our fans and we will continue to encourage participation for all of those that are comfortable doing so.”

“That said, some of the members of our program have concerns and aren’t comfortable participating at this time, and I respect that as well. This is an issue that we will continue to have meaningful conversations about and work through as the campus committee gathers more information and addresses it. These findings will allow us to continue our conversation about “The Eyes of Texas” moving forward.”

Injury Report

Chris Brown – shoulder sprain (expected back at practice next week)
Roschon Johnson – AC sprain in shoulder
Jake Smith – re-aggravated hamstring in pregame (day-to-day)
Caden Sterns- turf toe
Josh Thompson – ankle sprain

On running game struggles vs. OU

“Got to run the ball better we all know that and find ways to help our offensive line. It did not handle Oklahoma’s movement of their defensive line. They were twisting and moving on every snap. That was difficult for us and we need to do a better job. Not the outcome that any of us desired or hoped for. In a crazy year like this, I was pleased to see some tangible improvement in some areas.”

Variables of preparing for Baylor in two weeks

“Our focus has to be about us. We’ve got so many things that we have to clean up… trying to install new systems on both sides of the ball. We need to practice we need to work. Our plan is to go out there and have short practices. We need the good on good work. I felt like, despite our scout teams effort, they give us such a great look, we have thoroughly missed the full speed reps against the caliber of competition our ones and twos provide. I feel for the guys at Baylor. You guys know my relationship with Dave (Arranda). I feel for them. I don’t know exactly what’s going on with them. This week, this is about us and fixing the things that are fixable.”

Tangible areas of improvement for team

“Red zone defense, rushing defense, running the football. We’ve got to find creative ways getting our receivers open in man coverage. We thought we could match up well against their corners and we didn’t. We’ve got to run the ball better. Certainly, our punt team… was a huge factor in that game, as well. The penalties… we’ve got to play a cleaner brand of football. We’ve got to make sure we’re the exception and not the rule.”

On Keaontay Ingram’s involvement in offense

“He fumbled his first carry, which is big, especially coming off last week. We thought it was best for him to regain his composure. Thought it was important for him to sit out a bit. At that point… we weren’t blocking them well up front to begin with. He needed a break after a fumble on the first carry.”

Level of panic after poor start

“Any new system requires a massive amount of repetition, and we’re getting those repetitions on the run. We are a work in progress when you’re installing a new defense and a new offense, there’s going to be bumps in the road. Not an excuse. It’s not something that we say is OK, but I think it’s also reality. We’ve got a bye week and it’s important for us to make the most of the practice reps we get to continue our trajectory of improvement.”

Message to fans on “The Eyes of Texas” and state of the program

“We thank them. We thank them very much for support. We understand at the University of Texas they’ve got tremendously high expectations. I can assure you the players are working their ever-living you-know-what-off to achieve those very high standards and expectations. Our guys hold themselves to the highest of standards. What I would say to them is thank you. We are working around the clock to give them the team that everyone wants to see out there.”

Is team still unified?

“The effort that hopefully everybody on this call saw throughout the game. Most importantly, there in the fourth quarter… some critical stops. We held Oklahoma to zero points in the fourth quarter. The defense gave us the ball in order to do that. A team that is divided, fractured, that has lost faith or hope…they don’t play like that. We’ve all been around college football long enough to know that teams that play that hard and with that much belief are teams that are together. Our players have played a lot of football and we realize there’s a lot of football left to be played.”

Is there any compromise with players about “The Eyes of Texas”?

“I put a lot of thought into the words that I said to open the press conference. I know our leadership, both at a university level and an athletic department level, we will follow their lead wherever that takes us.”

Should the offense transition to total passing attack?

“A little bit. I think 50 or 60 might be a little bit of an exaggeration. I know this…every great championship team that has been around, including the one in our league, has had a very formidable running attack. I’m not saying we’re going to flip some kind of switch and say we’re going to be able to run the ball for 300 yards… that’s not what I’m saying. In order to win championships, you’ve got to run the football when you need to run the football. Are we a good passing team right now? Yeah, we’re pretty good. I’m so proud of Jordan Whittington for the contribution he made in the game. That’s his first full game at wide receiver without a spring practice, without a lot of practice due to injury. We’re a receiver group that is a work in progress. We do know we have a quarterback that can throw it and we’re developing at wide receiver. You’ve got to be able to run the ball efficiently to win championships.”

Message to team about penalties

“They all need to be taken individually. Why and how and what. Derek Kerstetter is a captain and nobody is more sick about the penalty than he is. We’ve got to be smarter in that instance. He knows that. Some come from an over exuberance of trying to do too much, some come from a lack of attention to detail. They all need to be addressed singularly. Guys that commit foolish penalties will be punished. It’s the only thing left that we know how to do… we’ve educated, we’ve pleaded until we’re blue in the face. I cannot tell you… the amount of attrition these guys have… there’s no malice, lack of care. These are penalties… it’s losing your wits for a split second and it wound up costing us. We’ve got to rein that in and trust our technique and training.”

Is team at a crossroads of the season?

“Every week is a crossroads. We were at a crossroads at TCU. The level of unity is phenomenal and great right now. You don’t see that kind of effort and tenacity and belief from an outfit that is not unified. They all have the same goal. The magnitude is not great enough. When you can watch the video and take away examples of improvement, it makes going to work to fix the areas that need to be fixed a lot more palatable. Our guys are hungry and ready to get out on the practice field to improve. They know there is so much left of the season to play. We’re concerned about Texas.”

Evaluation of offensive line | Denzel Okafor and Christian Jones

“I don’t know if it’s fair to grade overall. They played very much improved against TCU. Nobody played well enough against Oklahoma. To single out those two guys is not fair at all. We definitely took a step back against Oklahoma but we’ve got two weeks to fix the fixables and they are fixable and we’ve got to put our nose to the grindstone.”

Who took the lead on defense in the fourth quarter?

“Joseph Ossai, he plays so hard. I don’t know what kind of justice the TV copy gives Joseph and his effort. I know the coaches copy is… phenomenal effort. Not good, not great—phenomenal. He is a guy that I know the entire defense really looks to and feeds off of because of his effort level. Being in the right place in the right time.”

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