Longhorns coach Tom Herman on the Big 12 opener against Texas Tech

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Longhorns truly start the 2020 season with the Big 12 opener at Texas Tech after the dismantling of UTEP in the season opener.

Normally, a trip to Lubbock would prove to be very difficult due to an intimidating environment of Red Raiders fans. However, this year, fan capacity will be limited due to restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas Tech struggled in its opener against Houston Baptist, fighting off a potential two-point conversion to hold off the Huskies for the 35-33 win in Lubbock on Sept. 12. The Red Raiders have also been battling COVID-19 outbreaks throughout its locker room. Last week, Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells said the Red Raiders had six active cases.

It’s a 2:30 p.m. kickoff in Lubbock between the Longhorns and Red Raiders on Saturday.

Texas head coach Tom Herman met with the media on Monday to breakdown the match-up with Texas Tech.

Injury Report

  • Jordan Whittington – 3 to 4 weeks for recovery from knee injury
  • Jake Smith – continuing to rehab hamstring injury. UT expects to know more about his status later this week
  • Reese Moore – recovered from knee scope procedure and is expected to be back at practice on Tuesday

How has Texas been able to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks

“I hate to even talk about it because I don’t want to jinx it. We could certainly be next. I don’t think anyone has a secret formula. I think our guys are really bought in. I don’t know that we’re doing anything magical. I think part of it is that we got our rash of them out of the way early, but other than that I think our guys have bought in which is not easy thing to do in Austin at the Univeristy of Texas having to to live the life in order to stay safe and COVID free. For the most part, our guys have continued to be diligent because they believe and understand for us to have a successful season, they’re going to have to go above and beyond and it’s up to us to make sure that we continue that level of diligence.”

Breakdown of running back carries and Roschon Johnson being starter

“I think even distribution is what we’re after and in 2020 you’re going to make sure that these guys stay safe and healthy. I don’t know how more emphatic I can be that…I know you guys want to judge who’s on the first line in the two-deep and who jogs out on the first time. To us and those guys, it’s irrelevant.”

Focus on Texas Tech and handling business

“I think supposed to is very subjective. You guys get to decide what supposed to looks like. As long as we play to the best of our abilities, we feel very confident. We have watched the HBU game numerous times. It’s difficult to get a beat on Texas Tech’s defensive philosophy simply because we know how potent HBU’s passing attack is. Any time a team is heavy on one side, run or pass, that’s going to affect your defensive game plan. This will be a good test of in game adjustments for us, I think. I’d imagine they’re going to play us different. There’s a quiet confidence. I think our guys know what they are capable of. With the veterans being around here and the make up of this team, I do believe there’s a lot of confidence in that locker room.”

Evaluation of offensive line

“I like the fact that we threw the ball in the upper 40s and had zero sacks. I didn’t like that our quarterback got hit a couple of times. When we decided to run, we didn’t exert our will necessarily maybe in the way we did in the throw game, but I’m not too concerned when you only attempted 10 or 12 runs. It’s going to be tough to get in a rhythm. I think some of that is to be understood.”

2020 challenges in going on the road

“I think one of the reasons we do what we do at home is…so it’s not different on the road. You’re going to sleep in a hotel bed. You’re not going to have a roommate…80 something beds to check last week. That took a while. I think what I’ve learned with the contact tracing on an airplane. If a kid tests positive within 48 hours of being on that airplane, the two rows behind him and in front of him are going to be wiped out and that’s regardless of wearing a mask. That’s going to be difficult in how we seat the team on the airplane. We had to make a lot of changes. We didn’t have a team meal on the night before the UTEP game. Felt a lot different and it stinks.”

On changing culture and building program

“I think it’s important to praise small victories. I think any time you see anything that is a shining example of what you’re expectations are, you need to celebrate them in a new program. There’s probably 100 stories but off the top of my head. Stay consistent, never relent and celebrate small victories.”

On WR Joshua Moore’s attitude last season

“He kept his head down and mouth shut and came to work everyday. He was the best player on the scout team last year and he did it with a smile on his face. The biggest thing with him and his return was his attitude. Did he make everything in terms of where he was supposed to be? Sure he did that. The hard part is doing it with a smile on your face…getting pushed around a little by the defense. Not just what he did but the way he did it.”

Challenges of playing on the road

“You’ve got to start fast when you’re on the road on both sides of the ball. If you give them momentum on either side of the ball, I think that’s something that you can feed off of at home. The formula is not too different. Normally, you’ve got to weather the crowd noise but crowd noise shouldn’t be an issue this year. When you take the crowd out of the equation, there is no difference to playing on the road or at home. We’ve been afforded a slight advantage that we don’t have to contend with the home team’s crowd.”

Evaluation of Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman

“Any time you throw for 430 and lead your team to 600 yards of offense, you’re doing a good job. We’ve felt when he’s healthy, he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the conference. He is more than capable, he’s one of the better ones in our league.”

On Texas Tech coach Matt Wells

“I don’t know that his success at Utah State has anything to do with his success at Texas State. I think he’s the right guy for the job. I worked with his brother Luke for three years at Iowa State. The cool thing about Matt is…they’re going to be innovative offensively but they’ll never stray from the physicality and toughness I think that he wants from his program and I’ve always admired that. You can see the beginnings of that start to take shape in Lubbock, as well.”

On strategy during bye week

“Our training camp was so unique and so different we felt like we needed the extra work. Introduced a little scout team on Wednesday and Thursday/Friday were more Texas Tech centric, if you will. We went from a two and a half work week to a four day work week. You don’t want to give 120 18 to 22 year olds, you know, 72 hours off, but we needed the work too. We missed so much regularity of training camp that it was important for us to continue to work.”

On role of linebackers

“I think they’re always going to be involved in the pass defense. I’m happy that we’ve got some pretty athletic guys there. Guys that can run and change direction and cover a lot of ground. We feel good about those guys in covering a pass offense.”

Tight end evaluations vs. UTEP

“I thought they graded out really well. I thought three or four graded out as champion. I feel good about the four guys there. Brayden Liebrock rolled his ankle in practice, but he’ll be back today. I think you’ll see more 12 personnel and our guys are versatile enough to do it, but they can also stick their face in there and block.”

On team is grounded and focused on Texas Tech game

“A lot. We haven’t done anything yet. We beat UTEP. That’s good, it beats the alternative. We won the game and we did it the way we set out to do it, but at the end of that day that was our scrimmage. I think our starters played 30 plays. We understand this is a huge test on the road. The level of competition ratchets up significantly and I think we’re all crazy if, in 2020, we want to judge a team in 2020 off a game one performance. I think we’re going to be in for some really poor predictions moving forward if we judge a team off of one game. We’re not doing it. I know that. We’re going to see a much-improved Texas Tech team. I would like to think we’ll be improved, as well. It will be a team that will provide a much stiffer competition and we know that. We know that every week is different. Just because a team won by two points in week one doesn’t mean they’re not capable of beating you by 21. I would caution everyone…let’s not jump to too many conclusions after one game in the craziest offseason in the history of college football ever.”

On if shorter Big Ten schedule should be considered for College Football Playoff

“That decision is out of my control and I’m not going to waste a brain cell even forming an opinon about it. I’m happy for those players that will get an opportunity to play especially for those juniors or seniors that this might or will be their last time playing college football. I think they got that right. I don’t even know the format. So chalk it up to something out of my control and we’re pretty focused on controlling the things we can control and worrying about the things we can control.”

On how the team voted on seven captains

“That was how many the team decided. We took a vote where everybody was eligible and these seven guys were head and shoulders above the rest of the team. Within these seven guys, to cut it to four would’ve been a vote or two. We had six last year so it felt like the right thing to do that the team was pretty adamant that these were the seven guys and I think it’s the compliment to all of them that their team is…I guess, divided on who should represent them. A cool thing to see that many guys receive that many votes.”

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