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When Tom Herman first arrived at Texas, he reiterated time and time again that his team would be the most physical and disciplined on the field. That was not the case today. After a promising start to the game with a Holton Hill pick six on Maryland's first pass attempt, the Longhorns fell apart - in every aspect. Although Texas tried to mount a comeback during several crucial moments of the game, Maryland always struck back. Although the results speak for themselves, it's necessary to dive in deeper to this game and what exactly happened. Offense The offense was decent at times, and at other times bewildering. First of all, Texas has absolutely no rushing attack. The offensive line got out-physicaled by Maryland's front four practically the entire game, which did not help Kyle Porter and Chris Warren III. That being said, I am still baffled as to why Porter is playing over Warren. Don't get me wrong - Porter is a talented running back. But he's not Chris Warren. Sometimes, backs have to create holes for themselves and use their vision to gain positive yardage. For Porter, that trait is not developed. Instead, Porter hesitates when hitting the holes, and is not big or strong enough to shake off tacklers in open space. Yes, he's shifty, but that only matters if he can get to the second level. The coaching staff raved about Porter the entire offseason, and I now wonder if that's because the Texas run defense is so bad that they misguided Stan Drayton. The blame, however, does not solely fall on the running backs. The Texas offensive line, said to be one of the strongest units on the team (aside from RT) were dominated the entire game. Even All-American LT Connor Williams struggled towards the end of regulation, in which he accumulated two costly holding penalties. The RB's seldom had holes to run through, and Shane Buechele was under pressure inside the pocket all day long. A big reason for that was a lack of an abled body at the TE position. Converted WR-to-TE Garrett Gray got the start for Texas today, and his inexperience showed. Gray may have soft hands, but his blocking ability is subpar at best. The loss of Andrew Beck and the only real TE on the team hurts in a major way. Considering the circumstances, Buechele and his receivers had a decent day overall. The main disappointment on offense was offensive coordinator Tim Beck's play calling. More often than not, Beck made highly questionable calls that did not place his unit in the best position to succeed. In short yardage situations, Beck often made repetitive and predictable play calls. The Longhorns went for it on 4th down three times today, and failed to convert once. In one situation later in the game, Beck elected to go for a 4th down conversion at midfield instead of letting All-American Michael Dickson pin freshman QB Kaism Hill deep. As a result, the Longhorns turned the ball over on downs and Maryland scored seven plays later. Although there were some bright spots, Tim Beck did not help his team today. Scoring only 21 points on offense is not enough to win in the Big 12. Tim Beck and his offense have a lot of work to do. Defense The Texas defense gave Texas fans horrifying flashbacks of the 2016 season. The Terrapins rushed for 263 yards on offense, frequently attacking Texas right up the gut for big gains. Where Todd Orlando is well-known for his extravagant schemes and the toughness of his players, that was clearly lacking today. More often than not, Orlando brought too much pressure or not enough pressure at the wrong times. For example, DeShon Elliot was brought up to the box in a running situation, but had nobody behind him to provide assistance. Once the Maryland rusher got to the second level, it was off to the races. Speaking of miscues, the Texas secondary did not look like the talented bunch that has been praised all offseason. The only defender that lived up to the standard was Holton Hill. Kris Boyd was beat in coverage all day. Brandon Jones looked lost and had no idea how to get off blocks. PJ Locke was nonexistent the entire game. This is not the physical defense that Orlando has a reputation of building. Granted, it's only the first game - but not a promising sign regardless. I lost count of how many poor angles defenders took as well as the poor effort at getting off blocks. The most concerning aspect of the defense's performance has to be the run game. Once a rusher got to the second level, it was a foot race. It seems like Orlando's LB's are not hitting the proper gaps, or maybe his DL is not getting enough penetration up front. Whatever it is, this unit clearly lacks the physicality and discipline that is needed to succeed. If the Texas defense cannot hold the Terrapins to under 51 points, how will they fare in the Big 12? If they don't improve dramatically, not great. The first step is stopping the run. Special Teams Surprisingly, this unit had the best performance of the day despite several miscues. First, it began with a missed 42-yard FG from Joshua Rowland. Then, on Rowland's next attempt, the kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Not an ideal start on special teams for Tom Herman. Then, the tides began to turn. On a Maryland FG attempt, senior DT Poona Ford got a hand up and blocked the attempt, which resulted in a 65-yard touchdown return from none other than Holton Hill. Shortly after in the second half, Reggie Hemphill returned a punt for 91-yards and the score, thanks to a miraculous block by Malik Jefferson. While special teams did not score a single touchdown for Texas last season, this unit scored twice for Texas today and in large part kept the Longhorns in the game. Although there were several miscues that led to points, they can be fixed. I have faith that Tom Herman can sort this unit out, but that appears to be the least of his worries at the moment. Overall, the Longhorns just did not appear prepared today. That just goes to show you that preseason hype is worthless if the results do not match on the gridiron. College football opening weekend can be a spectacular or heartbreaking thing. For Texas fans, this instance was unfortunately the latter. That does not mean that the Longhorn faithful should abandon ship. As the Texas coaching staff emphasizes time and time again, take it one game at a time. One loss does not mean the season is over. Texas fans are tired of a decade of mediocrity, and want the results immediately. At some point, they will come. But right now Tom Herman has many issues to address. Until they can be fixed, Texas fans will just have to do what they've done for the past decade - remain faithful and keep going. It's the only thing any football fan can do.
The Terrapins beat the Longhorns 51-41 on Saturday at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium to open the Tom Herman era on the 40 Acres. Let’s take a look at how the Texas defense and special teams graded in the loss to Maryland. Defensive Line Early on, it looked like the Texas defense was going to have its way with the Terrapins. The defensive line played well on the first drive of the game, but after that everything went downhill. Poona Ford played well, taking on double teams and opening up lanes for the linebackers to come down and make plays, but the linebackers failed to make those plays. Charles Omenihu flashed at times, notching Texas’ only sack. Ta’quon Graham played about as well as you could have expected for a freshman. One major disappointment was the non-impact by Malcolm Roach. The sophomore finished with only 1 tackle and was not a disruptive presence in the backfield. Texas only got the quarterback once all game, which is disappointing when facing a team that led the Big 10 in sacks allowed a season ago. Most fans will look at the stats and see 276 yards rushing and think that the defensive line had a rough day, but I would personally place much of that blame on the linebackers. Grade: C Linebackers Following Ty Johnson’s 40-yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter, I closely watched a replay that showed both Anthony Wheeler and Malik Jefferson filling the wrong gaps, allowing Johnson to run untouched into the end zone. The assignment football that the linebackers struggled with in 2016 seems to remain. On obvious passing downs, Texas chose to bring in a package that included Breckyn Hager and Jeff McCulloch. Unfortunately, that package was not used as often as Todd Orlando would have liked, mainly due to the inability to stop the run on 1st and 2nd down. Gary Johnson played on special teams but did not see any action on defense, despite being considered one of the best tacklers and run defenders on the team. Whether it’s from bad coaching the past 3 seasons or simply the inability to know an assignment, Todd Orlando has to find linebackers that give this defense at least a fighting chance in defending the run. Grade: D- Defensive Backs Tyrrell Pigrome was known as a run-first QB who had issues throwing the ball. Those issues never arose against Texas. Aside from a first quarter interception returned for a touchdown by Holton Hill, Texas was beat through the air all day. Kris Boyd got beat on numerous occasions and Holton Hill was not much better. After an injury to Pigrome, backup QB Kasim Hill converted a 3rd and 19 pass that squashed the hopes of any comeback by the Longhorns. Brandon Jones and DeShon Elliott are both going to be elite safeties, but the duo still struggles with pursuit angles and helping in the run game. Elliott seemed to play out of control at times, and whiffed on several open field tackles. Jones still needs proper coaching on how to help out in run support and properly shed off blocks. Overall, it seemed like the communication issues that plagued the Texas defensive backs much of last year were fixed, but the players simply failed to execute. Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill combined to complete 80% of their passes. If Texas plans on winning big time football games this year, they have to figure out their coverage issues before they face the likes of Baker Mayfield, Mason Rudolph, Will Grier and Sam Darnold. Grade: D+ Special Teams This was maybe the most wild special teams game I have seen in awhile. Maryland and Texas both returned blocked field goals for touchdowns, and Texas also added a punt return for a touchdown. Poona Ford blocked a kick midway through the 2nd quarter that fell right into the hands of Holton Hill, who returned it to the house. New kicker Josh Rowland did not look good in his first live game action. His kicks were low and did not have much power behind them. Rowland missed his first kick wide left before having his next kicked blocked and returned for a touchdown. The reality is, Texas does not have many options in the kicking department. Walk-on Chris Naggar has no live game experience and senior Mitchell Becker has only attempted 2 field goals in his career, both from under 25 yards. Michael Dickson looked like his normal self. The junior punted twice for 118 yards and flipped the field when he was asked to do so. In the return game, Texas lined up Devin Duvernay and Brandon Jones on kickoff returns. Both have the speed to be deadly in the return game, but blocking continues to an issue. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps served as the primary punt returner, and it looked like Texas has found its answer at that position. Hemphill-Mapps returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter to help get Texas back in the game. Credit Tom Herman for staying true to his word and playing starters on special teams. Malik Jefferson had a huge block that sprung Hemphill-Mapps on his return for a touchdown. It’s hard to not give a passing grade to a unit that had 2 touchdowns, but the field goal kicking and blocking on kick returns are worrisome. Grade: C