‘We’re not going to panic’: Tom Herman looks ahead to Longhorns-Sooners battle

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s Red River Showdown week and it will certainly be a unique kind of Texas-OU game on the field and around the Cotton Bowl.

The Longhorns and Sooners are entering the annual rivalry showdown with a lot less fanfare after early season losses. OU dropped out of the national rankings on Sunday for the first time in four seasons. Texas fell to No. 22 following its 33-31 loss to TCU in Austin.

A rivalry game known for its massive momentum swings will have considerably fewer fans in the stands on Saturday to spark those moments. Capacity will be limited to 25% which will give each fanbase around 11,000 to 12,000 tickets for the game.

OU opened as a 2.5 point favorite to win the game, according to oddsmakers. Last season, OU really slowed the Longhorns offense for extended portions of the 34-27 Sooners victory.

Longhorns coach Tom Herman met with the media on Monday to discuss the upcoming game against the Sooners and the loss to TCU.

Opening Statement

“I felt a lot of and heard and saw a lot of accountability from most everybody on our team for the poor performance on Saturday which was very encouraging to see. Knee deep in that preparation this morning. Extremely excited to play Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown. I know our players are eager to roll up their sleeves get back to work and make sure we improve the things that we can and hopefully have that translate better on Saturday.”

Injury Report

  • Ayodele Adeoye – shoulder injury (not available this week)
  • Roschon Johnson – shoulder injury (should be available)
  • Reese Leitao – doubtful
  • Tyler Owens – doubtful
  • Joshua Moore – probable
  • Jordan Whittington – practiced yesterday and things went well

State of the program in year four under Herman

“I think any time you get better week in and week out…that’s progress. We’re installing a brand new defensive system with all new coaches and no spring practice and a training camp that was unique. We knew that there would be growing pains on that side of the ball. We made a change in system prior to the pandemic…these are the cards we’ve been dealt. I thought our tackling improved, our red zone defense improved, our third down defense improved. Sam is on a record pace right now, I thought the right side of our offensive played much more improved. I see improvement week to week. We knew, defensively, installing a new package like this that there are going to be growing pains. There’s a lack of banked reps and experience in this system.”

How much has Herman learned about his team?

“I think these two games definitely told us a lot that we didn’t know. Rightfully so we had very limited scrimmages with our players and physical fitness levels being where they were. I felt like we played how we should’ve played against UTEP. All of the issues we have right now are fixable. I remember…maybe I’ve got a bit better memory than some. Just two short seasons ago, this program lost two straight in conference and ended up playing for a conference championship and winning a New Years Six bowl. We’re not going to panic after three games. We’re not going to panic after a two point conference loss. We know we have a lot of improvement to make. It was a really good Sunday. Our players came back and extremely eager to learn. You would’ve liked those lessons learned in a win, but we’ve got a long season ahead of us and nobody in this building is panicking. In 2020, nobody is going to panic about a two-point loss. That’s not to say we’re burying our heads in the sand to the tremendous amount of issues that we have to correct. If we cross the goal line and score a touchdown and win the game, does that erase all the issues? No it’s the same issues. We would’ve had all the same issues had we found a way to pull that game out. We’re focused on the here and now and make the necessary improvements.”

Team’s response to loss was “unbelievable”

“I talked to a bunch of guys. Again, unbelievable Sunday. I tell you how I feel…that is certainly how I feel. I told my wife the same thing. It’s definitely a different feel around here and there’s a lot of accountability in the locker room

Has Texas-OU game lost luster due to losses?

“Does it lose luster? No, in my opinion, it’s the greatest rivalry in college football. Very unique in terms and where it’s played and when it’s played. I know a lot of that is going to be different because of 2020. This is still OU-Texas and always will be.”

How different will Cotton Bowl be this year?

“I don’t know how it will look because nobody has ever seen it and done it at a neutral site game. Our home game felt like a home game and the road game felt like a road game. It got loud in Lubbock with all the music prompts. How that translates to a neutral site I’m not quite sure. What I’ll miss is the drive…the bus ride through the crowd and the state fair. That is what makes this rivalry so special. It’s two interstate rivals that happened to play every year in one of the most historic venues at the Texas State Fair.”

Is the Big 12 already eliminated from College Football Playoff?

“If we’re trying to predict the season after three games, there’s a lot of people with more time on their hands than me. I don’t know what benefit that serves…after three ballgames. We’ll try to take it one game at a time.”

Do you expect to see more parity in college football?

“Any time you have the level of quarterbacks and skill position players in this league you’re going to have a ton of parity especially in a year like this. I would imagine in other leagues they’re probably facing similar circumstances.”

On penalty issues vs. TCU

“26 total penalties…that’s a lot by any measure. We need to do our part to clean that up.”

Does team have more confidence in close games?

“I don’t know if more is the right answer. We always have. We’ve had a close ones around here…wins and losses. I think our guys are very confident in our ability. Any time you have Sam Ehlinger at quarterback you’re going to be confident…we’ve always been a confident crew in tight ball games.”

Did Herman have emotions watching the OU-Iowa State game?

“I don’t know if I had emotions on a game I’m not involved in. I was watching it more to study in it than emotionally invested in it. My emotions were about our game. The frustration of playing as poorly as we did…of being that close despite our best efforts to give it away. Those were the emotions.

On the strength of OU’s offense

“I have always been fascinated by Oklahoma’s offense. Coach Riley does a remarkable job. Everybody looks at the quarterback in that offense but they use a lot of 12 personnel. It really caused defenses fits…you have to play in a nickel because of all the space when they do flex out but you know the very next snap they could come in and give you a heavy formation that gives you problems as well. When coach Riley and that offense are going well, they’ve always been able to do that is play with two wide receivers. It poses a lot of challenges.”

On handling criticism from UT fanbase

“I haven’t gone on anything other than Yahoo! news. I know a lot more about our president’s health condition and some of the celebrity gossip than our fans reaction to us losing. Any time you subject yourself to people that are outside of the arena…you’re asking for trouble. I was talking to Dabo (Swinney) on Thursday or Friday…it’s not the water outside the boat that sinks ships. It’s the water that you allow inside the boat that does. I reminded our players of that on Sunday. It’s pretty easy to be reminded of that around here. They know what they signed up for and so did I. When you come to a place like Texas, there’s going to be high expectations. Our job is to put our nose to the grind stone and improve.”

On OU quarterback Spencer Rattler

“Really, really impressed for a guy that is just taking over the starting role. Phenomenal thrower of the football, quick release, accurate, strong arm and can throw from multiple angles. Really the total package.”

Any way to stop Sooners offense?

“They’ve been averaging about 44 points a game for the last four years so if there is I don’t know if anybody has figured it out. It’s difficult. We have played well in our three games defensively in the Cotton Bowl against them.”

On Sam Ehlinger’s (likely) last Red River Showdown

“It means a lot. We’ve talked probably six or eight times but that’s not fair to tell you where his heads at. He’s displayed remarkable leadership in the last 48 hours. I know it’s a very overused phrase but he’s a coach on the field. He’s a coach on the sidelines. The guy exemplifies everything you want as a program. To be able to jog out there one more time is pretty special and I’ll make sure to soak in.”

On convincing UT running backs to split carries

“It was actually pretty easy because five, eight or ten years ago. Alabama kind of set the bar there. Guys getting drafted very high with 10 or 12 carries a game on average. I think this is one of, if not, the most violent position in all of football. Running back, from the time they come out of the wound, in my opinion, they only have a certain amount of carries on their body and at some point that body is going to break down and if you can extend your career on the back end when you’re getting paid to do it. I think that’s a pretty easy sell.”

On Longhorns offensive improvement and successful scheme so far

“I thought we protected the passer a lot better. I thought the offensive line had their best game. Maybe finding and establishing the one or two run schemes that you’re going to major in and finding the soft spots in the defense earlier. We still have had too many drops in the past few games. I think the offense is on a pretty good trajectory right now. Knock on wood we’ve been pretty good in the red zone, but I also don’t want to tip my hat too much publicly for this week.”

On Keaontay Ingram fumble against TCU

“Keaontay Ingram didn’t plan on fumbling. Keaontay Ingram surely knows better than to reach the ball out in this program that is something that can’t be emphasized in this program any more to a greater degree. I think you can’t do too much. You’ve got to play in the system. This is not just Keaontay Ingram…I could be talking about any guy on our team. You’ve got to have some very intentional self-talk in your own head and continually remind yourself that this is not a one-man band…just play in the system and good things will happen.”

On UT players not acknowledging “The Eyes of Texas” song in postgame festivities

“I don’t think it’s ended. I know our administration has given them the freedom to not mandate that they sing that song and those guys have chosen to do so, but I don’t feel like it’s ended by any stretch of the imagination.”

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