Longhorns coach Tom Herman on upcoming showdown with No. 6 Oklahoma State

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Longhorns corrected some of its issues during the bye week and focused on the run game. The result was a 27-16 win against Baylor on Saturday.

It wasn’t a flashy win against the Bears, but the Longhorns showed improvement in the problematic areas of penalties, special teams and the running game.

This week, Texas faces its largest challenge of the season on the road at No. 6 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are experienced on both sides of the ball. Impressive playmakers Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace are the engine for the Pokes offense. Nine of the 11 starters on defense are veterans with two years of experience.

Oklahoma State is the only undefeated team in the conference. The Cowboys are certainly in contention for the national championship after a 24-21 win against Iowa State on Saturday. Herman knows the challenge ahead for Texas, but, with two losses in the conference, the Longhorns need to win to have a chance of accomplishing its goal of playing for a Big 12 Championship.

Here’s what Herman said in his Monday press conference about No. 6 Oklahoma State.

Opening Statement

“Really happy and proud that we got an opportunity to win at home and thank our fans, both, in the stadium and all across the world and stayed relatively healthy. We also know that we’ve got a huge challenge. We’ve got to go on the road to a very hostile environment regardless of fan capacity and play a veteran well-coached team. We’ve got to continue to get better. We are, for certain, a work in progress. We made a lot, a lot of strides in that bye week leading up to Baylor. I expect us to continue on our trajectory north with improvement. If we don’t beat ourselves, we’ll have a chance to get a big time win. We know it’s going to take everyone playing at the top of their game. It’s a talented team, but it’s talent with experience.”

Ehlinger leads team in rushing — is that what the coaching staff wants?

“I don’t think anyone said we don’t want our quarterback to be our leading rusher. A lot of things can be skewed by statistics. We play three running backs. I don’t think that’s a real fair analysis of the run game…to just say your quarterback is the leading rusher. He’s the only one that has played quarterback and there’s four or five running backs. To be quite honest with you, I don’t think anyone said we don’t want Sam to be our leading rusher. It’s something that happens. He’s a good runner. Sacks count as rushing yards for a quarterback as well as scrambles. I thought we took a big step forward on Saturday to have two running backs combine for over 100 yards. I thought it was our best day yet from that position. Have to be a little more consistent. I do like the eight, nine, 12 yard runs. We’ve got to make sure that we can at least squeak out three or four yards. I don’t think there’s any cause for concern and we’re all on the right track in continuing to try and improve the run game.”

Strategy of rotating wide receivers this season

“We’re rotating a lot more this year. Devin Duvernay didn’t come out of the game last year. When you have one guy as the bell-cow, you’re going to play him a bunch. When you’ve got a bunch of guys that have earned the right to play and nobody has separated themselves in terms of production or ability level, I think the prudent thing to do is to keep them fresh. We want to make sure our guys stay healthy.”

When’s the last time Texas played its ‘A-Game’?

“We haven’t yet this year. That’s for sure. Probably in all phases…the Alamo Bowl. We’ve got it in us. We’re building towards it for sure. We continue to improve as the season goes on. Defensively, a definite improvement. We certainly took a huge step in the penalty area in terms of not beating ourselves. I think we’re heading toward our A game and I hope we can show up and deliver our A game in Stillwater because we’re going to need it.”

Should TE Jared Wiley be more involved in the offense?

“I don’t think we need to. Unless you’re handing the football to an individual, the ball is going to go where the defense tells you the ball goes. For good fortune for Jared and the tight end position, that has been where the ball goes. At the end of the day, when the ball is snapped they can play whatever coverage that they want to. Jared has been doing a great job for us and is continuing to get better as a blocker. I’m just happy that when the plays are to be made, he made them. He was running wide open on the hash and on a crossing route against Baylor. I don’t know if he did or we did anything to get super open, but he has made the plays when the plays have presented themselves.”

Assessment of defensive line and pressure rates

“We have affected the quarterback more in our four conference games than in our previous two years combined in my opinion. We’ve batted balls down, we’ve hit the quarterback. In this league, it’s so hard because the ball comes out so fast to get those numbers. We are affecting the quarterback at a much higher rate than we ever have in our tenure here.”

Assessment of Oklahoma State defense

“Chaos up front. They’re going to be in multiple fronts and multiple blitzes. They are bringing free safeties and corners and nickels and strong safeties, but the one theme is man coverage we’re going to have to beat man coverage. Something we’ve been hit or miss with our wide receivers here in the last few weeks. Did not play to our standard in man coverage against Oklahoma. Did a pretty good job against Baylor. Those are going to be the two biggest things from a schematic point. They’re going to definitely outnumber the box.”

Is Texas OC Mike Yurcich’s time at OSU an overrated advantage?

“I think so. Defensively, he went against coach Knowles for one year. It’s much different…they’ve got nine of their 11 starters as seniors and juniors. This is a much, much different defense than what Mike faced in practice a few years ago.”

How dangerous is OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders?

“You put him back there with one of the best backs in the country…that just makes you that much more nervous. Oh by the way, there’s a Biletnikoff finalist at wide receiver lurking on the perimeter. Very difficult offense to defend against because of Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace. Now you add Spencer Sanders with his true dual threat capabilities back there. I know Chris Ash will have some sleepless nights this week, for sure.”

Does Oklahoma State look like a championship team?

“Yeah, they do. They’re playing elite defense. Elite not just in our league but in the country. When you have skill position players, like they have. Those are two key ingredients to a championship recipe. They sure do look like it right now.”

How much did the running game improve?

“I think it was just a matter of having the time and having the bye week. We only practiced three days of the week. It was nothing to do about Baylor and everything to do about us…running the football, offensively and stopping the run, defensively. Is it a finished product? Not even close, but we made significant strides that we can go back to the run game.”

On Mike Gundy’s program at Oklahoma State

“I think what coach Gundy has been able to do, which is come into a program, his alma mater, his dream job, if you will, and be given time to necessary to build it his way. Coach Gundy has a very experienced team that his finger prints are all over. He’s got a great system, he’s able to survive coaching turnover. That’s done because the same programs and philosophies are in place year after year after year and he does a great job with it.”

On controlling the pace against Baylor

“We slowed the game down by running the ball more. We allowed our defense to only play 68 gradeable plays. That’s a big difference from the 98 plays against Oklahoma or the 95 against Texas Tech. Any time you play less plays on defense, you’re going to be a better defense.”

On limiting penalties against Baylor

“We’re growing. We had a bye week. Did we wave a magic wand and say no more penalties or say a “Harry Potter” chant? No, we didn’t. We just got back to work and kept harping on the fundamentally and the discipline. We’re not perfect. We’re a work in progress. Everybody in our family sees the improvement week-by-week.”

On receiver Joshua Moore

“We like to call him a twitched up dude. He’s explosive guy. He can stop and start very abruptly. He can contort his body and go get some jump balls. I’m glad he’s playing the way that he’s playing.

On Chris Adimora’s performance at the Spur position

“The spur position is one that we would like to hear his name called more. We’d like a little more production from that position. Teams have done a good job of getting him in some run fits that are uncomfortable for a guy that’s been a corner in high school. Now you’re saying you’ve got to play this pulling guard in the A-gap. You know, ‘you want me to do what?’ Chris Adimora is doing a good job of being productive when his number is called.”

On offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter’s personal foul penalties

“Both. I live by a phrase…once is an anomaly, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. Derek’s got two right now. If he doesn’t learn after the second one, we’re going to have a lot more stern conversations. Right now, it’s a fourth year captain trying to leave everything he’s got on the field. He knows. This is not something Derek is trying to do. It’s not something Derek is defiant about. They know that there’s no malice there. No lack of discipline. It’s simply a matter of overzealous effort that needs to be curtailed a step or two prior to contact.”

On depth of running back position

“I do think that we’ve come a long way. It’s been really, really impactful for our offense to rotate those guys in and keep them fresh at that position.”

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