AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Longhorns will be in Manhattan, Kansas this week for an 11 a.m. kickoff against Kansas State. Texas is planning for back-to-back trips to the Sunflower State to close out the regular season — a season that will likely end without an appearance in the Big 12 championship game.
The Longhorns lost 23-20 to Iowa State on Friday, making the path to the title game nearly impossible. Technically, there’s still a 1% chance Texas could reach the Big 12 championship, but it would require Oklahoma to lose its final two games of the regular season and Oklahoma State to drop another game.
Questions from the media on Monday continued to focus on Tom Herman’s future with the Longhorns. Herman has a 30-18 overall record and a 21-13 conference record in four seasons at Texas.
However, Herman’s answers remained focus on Kansas State, and only Kansas State.
“Disappointed and heartbroken especially for our seniors in the outcome of last week’s game. The sun came up and our guys are a very resilient group and they understand we have a job to do. That was not the last game. Make the most of our opportunity to go 1-0 in Manhattan, Kansas. We’re still fighting for some really good bowl games. We’re fighting for a really good record and we’re fighting for these seniors to go out with four winning seasons and hopefully four bowl games wins. Wiped the tears from our eyes, picked ourselves up. I couldn’t be prouder of the team’s resiliency to get back to work.”
Jalen Green (DB) – doubtful with a high ankle sprain
Keaontay Ingram (RB) – questionable with a high ankle sprain
Derek Kerstetter (OL) – questionable with an ankle sprain
Has AD Chris Del Conte offered to talk with recruits again? Does the offer stand?
“Haven’t needed to. That offer still stands as per our last conversation this weekend. He understands that the main focus is to beat Kansas State in Manhattan but that offer was reiterated to me.”
Why haven’t things worked out this year?
“Any answer I give you right now is going to come across as an excuse. I’m going to focus on Kansas State and the opportunity to go 1-0. We’ll evaluate the things that we did poorly and go back to work to fix those things in the offseason. That wouldn’t be fair to our players if I were continually looking in the rearview mirror as to why things happened rather than preparing to beat Kansas State and that’s what we’re doing.”
Do you think the program is reaching Herman’s standard?
“The standard should be where I always expressed it be…which is to be in the conversation and competing for conference championships in the month of November and December. We were there this year. We were there a short two years ago and this year we came up three points short in an opportunity to advance to play another game, inching our way towards that.”
How much better is this program compared to before Herman’s arrival?
“I don’t know the measurement of better. I do know that we’ve won a lot of big games around here. We’ve beaten our rival. We’ve beaten top 10 teams. We’ve played in New Year’s Six bowl games. That’s for you to decide…how much better. The measurement of better, I don’t know, that’s for you guys to debate. Those things have happened. That’s indisputable.”
Does Herman believes he’s returning next year?
“I am absolutely and completely focused on getting our team ready to beat Kansas State and not worried about anything other than that.”
But the conversations between Del Conte and him have been productive?
“Every conversation Chris and I have our great. We’ve got a great relationship. We’ve got great conversations.”
Reaction to Sam Cosmi opting out of remainder of season
“Extremely proud of Sam. To come in as an unheralded three-star recruit and be developed by Yancy McKnight and Herb Hand into a potential first round draft pick. My first reaction was an immense feeling of pride. We can’t thank him enough for everything he’s given to this program and university. We will miss him but he’ll certainly always be part of this family.”
Who will compete for the left tackle spot in Cosmi’s absence?
“I think a lot depends on Derek Kerstetter’s health. In yesterday’s practice we had Christian Jones at left tackle with Jake Majors at center and Reese Moore at right tackle but that was a 45 minute practice. We’ll play the shell game a little bit and give those guys the opportunity to show that they’re ready to take on a Kansas State team that is…wow, are they good up front. I think they’re one of the top teams in sacks and TFLs. We’re going to have our hands very full with that defensive front.”
How hard has the rebuild been?
“I think we finished No. 9 in 2018 so we did get there in two years. It has been difficult. Right now we’re not worried about top 10 or relevancy. We’re worried about going 1-0 against Kansas State.”
How will team respond to Iowa State loss?
“They get two of their better defensive players back. This team has never taken anyone lightly. Our guys will be motivated. They’re competitors. They’re young men that compete and they want to prepare to win every game they play. It’s hard to prepare to win a game. The attitude and resiliency I saw yesterday…I don’t think there will be any lapse. We lost two in a row and came back and won three in a row. All they want to do is win and prepare to win. I don’t think this week will be any different.”
Evaluation of current state of recruiting
“We’re doing well in the 2021 class. We’ve still got a few spots to fill. COVID has pushed some of these guys’ decision dates back to February. I’m excited about the 2021 class committed but we all know we’ve got to win those games that we lost by three points on Saturday to generate momentum. I think those that are committed and those that will be committed understand that we’re on our way. They believe we have the pieces. We’re happy with the 2021 class. We’re a little bit behind everybody else with the COVID issues that we’re presented with recruiting and the new staff. We’ll be full steam ahead on the Class of 2022.”
Why won’t Herman comment on potential fate of his job?
“I know the noise can be deafening and I don’t think that would be fair to our players to take any attention away from the focus to have the opportunity to go 1-0 in Manhattan, Kansas.”
Does Herman believe the 2020 team met the standard?
“No, I don’t. We’ve done some really good things and we’ve come up short in a four overtime game. We’ve come up three points short or two points short in other games. We’ve got to find a way to win those close games in the future to get us over the hump.”
Should the coaching staff consider playing another quarterback other than Sam Ehlinger for any portion of the Kansas State game?
“No, I think…this is Sam’s team. He’s a three-year captain. He deserves to play his final season all of the way through and we’re going to give him every opportunity to do that.”
Is Herman coaching for his job?
“I’m extremely focused on beating Kansas State and I’m not worried about winning my way out anything. We’re full steam ahead, trying to win a conference game.”
Evaluation of wide receivers
“I would say hit and miss. A little bit inconsistent. I thought Brennan Eagles had a whale of a game against Iowa State. I think there are nuances that are coached differently depending on coaches and coordinators. By nature of the change in offensive system, some of those things are getting coached but not necessarily by the position coach but the nuances of the offense.”
Why has Texas lost those close games?
“We have not done a good enough of job of putting our players in position to execute. We have fallen ever so short. Job No. 1 is to find a way to break through that barrier. We’ve won some close games too. This isn’t a global problem. This just so happens to be the problem in three close losses that we’ve had. It’s not just one thing and it’s certainly not just three games. We’ve got to find a way to get our guys to execute.”
Who does Herman lean on for support?
“Self-reflection. I lean on my wife and my family. They’re my biggest cheerleaders and I love them to death. They’re probably the most honest person in my life as well as I’ve got mentors in Greg Davis and people here in the building. That’s part of it. We’ve been down this road before. You bounce ideas off people you trust.”
Does Cosmi’s opt out send the wrong message to other players?
“Not particularly. Sam had his mind made up. Sam is in a unique position…he has an opportunity to be a first round draft pick. I don’t think that sets any example to anyone on our football team. I want to reiterate the appreciation and gratitude we have for him and his family. We are very proud to have had Sam. He’s going to be a college graduate. The plan is for him to make us very proud in the National Football League.”
On Herman’s decision to change up coaching staff prior to 2020 season
“Not a whole lot. Some left on their own accord to be coordinators at other schools. It was time for a chance for us to get over the hump that we were at. I felt like we needed a change to get us to be an elite team. We could not have seen the pandemic coming. I certainly feel like we made the right decision for the long haul in terms of building our program into the elite team that we want and believe that we can be.”