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Is Texas Back After Upsetting Oklahoma? (By Daniel Seahorn)


Daniel Seahorn
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I’ve never been a fan of preseason polls or making record predictions before actual football is ever played. I feel like it’s an easy way to get expectations out of whack and for people to get their hopes up too high before actually knowing how their team will actually play when the spotlight is on them and everyone is actually keeping score.

I didn’t think Texas should have been ranked coming into the season. In my opinion they hadn’t done anything to warrant a preseason Top 25 ranking and they lost a good bit of talent to graduation after last year. On top of that, this Texas program still had a lot to prove to solidify they were on the rise. That they were actually BACK and not just a similar team that we’ve seen wandering lost in the wilderness over the past several years.

Then the Maryland game happened. We saw a team that started slow, looked sluggish and unprepared, but managed to fight and battle through some adversity. Then the turnover bug struck three times over and foiled the late comeback attempt or the Longhorns. For the second year in a row the Terps stunned the Longhorns and had the entire country wondering if things were actually getting better in Austin. Then the Tulsa game happened. The Golden Hurricane were clearly an inferior opponent that the Longhorns should have ran out of DKR, but the Longhorns let them hang around the entire game and had to manufacture a late drive and run the clock out. Not an ideal start to the season.

The Longhorns limped into the toughest stretch of their schedule that included three ranked opponents and a road test in Manhattan, Kansas where they hadn’t won since 2002. This was a stretch of games where we were going to find out everything we needed to know about the 2018 Texas Longhorns.

So what did Tom Herman’s Longhorns do during that stretch? They beat up then ranked USC 37-14, then followed that up by snapping their loss streak to TCU who was also ranked, and then they proceeded to grind out their first win in Manhattan since 2002. The Longhorns entered the Cotton Bowl for the Red River Rivalry 3-0 over that brutal stretch with a chance to make it four straight with a statement win over their rival from Norman.

The Sooners entered the matchup boasting arguably the best offense in the country and most certainly one of the most explosive with Kyler Murray at the helm. While the Texas defense had played well coming into the RRR, I was still a bit uneasy about how they matched up against the Sooner wide receivers who are big plays waiting to happen each snap. On top of that, they had to worry about containing Murray in the pocket, which is a very tall task because of elusiveness and ability to play backyard football.

It felt like a game that was going to take at least 40 points to come out victorious and that held true this past Saturday. The Texas offense has shown the ability to put together long methodical scoring drives this year and that was exactly what it was going to need against Oklahoma so that they could limit the amount of possessions that the Sooner offense would get. You don’t want to try to get into a shootout with the Sooners, but that’s exactly what we ended up getting in Dallas.

It felt like it could be a long day when the Sooners came right out and marched down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive, but the Longhorns gathered themselves and went on the offensive. Sam Ehlinger and the Texas marched down the field in five plays and answered immediately with a touchdown of their own and sent the message that they were not going to back down. The Texas offense scored on each possession of the first half and didn’t have to punt until their second possession of the second half. Along the way they forced Murray into an errant pass that was picked off by Brandon Jones and it was turned into points as well. Murray would also put the ball on the ground later in the contest that would later turn into a Texas touchdown. Two turnovers by the Heisman contending quarterback that turned into 10 points for Texas.

Texas was going to need some things to bounce their way in Dallas if they wanted to pull off the upset and those turnovers by Murray are an excellent example. The Longhorns were in control of this game right up until the point in the 4th quarter where the defense seemed to run out of gas and the offense couldn’t sustain drives and get points like they had all game long. Adversity struck in the form a Sooner rally that resulted in the game being tied up, but the Longhorns had one more shot to put the game away in regulation.

Enter Dicker the Kicker. The Texas offense put together a nine play, 52 yard drive and setup the freshman kicker from Lake Travis for a 40 yard field goal that would make him a legend overnight in Austin. The young man didn’t disappoint, as he stepped and drained the biggest kick of his life to date and sent half of the Cotton Bowl into a frenzy. The upset of the 7th ranked Sooners was complete and the Longhorns completed a brutal stretch of their early season schedule at 4-0. Something many (myself included) didn’t think was possible just a few weeks ago.

Texas now sits at 5-1 on the year and is ranked 9th and 14th in the AP and Coaches Polls respectively. Texas is undefeated in Big 12 play and controls their destiny on a chance to play for the Big 12 title. But is Texas back like many were quick to say after the Notre Dame win a couple years ago? Maybe.

Here’s why I say maybe. Saying Texas was back after one game back then proved to be premature back then for several reasons and that could very well happen again after 6 games if this Texas team shows it hasn’t learned from the past. One of the mantras for this team has been about finishing. And while they’ve shown so far they can finish games, they now must finish the bigger task of finishing the season and showing they can hoist the Big 12 championship trophy. Texas is showing progress on the field and that can’t be debated, but we all know that a program like Texas needs to be competing for a conference title and a playoff spot each year. If they show they can do that then we say for certain that they are back in my opinion.

The 2018 are half way to their goal, but there is still a lot of season left and they have to show they can truly finish. I’m as optimistic as I have been about a Texas team as I have been in a while and that’s mainly due to the quality play from Ehlinger at the quarterback position. Aside from the Maryland game, Ehlinger has taken very good care of the football and he is showing the progress you want to see from a sophomore who is in his second year in a system. The offense as a whole is in a much better place this year and that’s a tremendous sign for this team as a whole after it basically lacked an identity last year.

Texas has a chance to truly put itself back on the national stage, but they still have to show they can finish the race. They have to take it a week at a time and not get ahead of themselves and so far Herman and his staff seem to be keeping them focused on the task at hand and is not allowing them to get too full of themselves. That will be the key I they want to take the next step as a team and as a program.

 

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I will say Texas is back when they win the Big 12..The OU win was great for a whole myriad of reasons...but focus on the big picture its the conference championship and in the conversation for a playoff spot or a NY6 Bowl game

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I agree with your 'Maybe' Daniel.  It remains to be seen.  There are still a lot of question marks out there, and a lot of things this team needs to clean up.  While the remainder of the regular season schedule is not nearly as tasking as the first 6, (ok, Maybe Md and Tulsa weren't hard, but they ended up that way,) if Texas doesn't clean up their mistakes they'll be in for a hiccup along the way.  Let's hope Herman and the staff are able to work on the things that are not up to par. 

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I would say, Texas is on its way back. We are winning games. That's a big step forward. But Texas isn't truly back until it consistently runs teams like Tulsa out of the stadium. Quits losing to middle of the road teams like Maryland. Quits letting teams hang around like the K-State game. When Texas becomes consistent and quits shooting itself in the foot, then it will be back. Winning a Big 12 conference title may not be enough to say "Texas is back". It would be a great step forward but doesn't mean we're back. At least not in my opinion.

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I'd say yes. Yes, because they just went through a 4-game gauntlet that NO ONE thought we'd come out 4-0.

For now, the yes is conditional because Texas needs to beat the teams they're supposed to beat, not let a team like Tech sneak up on them, and finish what they started.

Only time can answer that. But since the question is posed today, my answer is yes.

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2 hours ago, dillohorn said:

Don't think so yet. Won the last 2 games, but almost lost both.

Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Based of the logic of almost our record the last few years should have an astrick next to it since many times we almost won a bunch of games.

We almost lost the 05 championship but we didn't and history wont care that we almost lost.

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1 hour ago, texasdalton said:

Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Based of the logic of almost our record the last few years should have an astrick next to it since many times we almost won a bunch of games.

We almost lost the 05 championship but we didn't and history wont care that we almost lost.

Those 2 games, the Maryland loss, and the unspectacular win over Tulsa, shows me UT is not back. I can only go by what I saw watching every play of every game. Improving yes, but not back. 

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23 minutes ago, dillohorn said:

Those 2 games, the Maryland loss, and the unspectacular win over Tulsa, shows me UT is not back. I can only go by what I saw watching every play of every game. Improving yes, but not back. 

Not every game for even a great team is perfect. I remember a game against Kansas in 2005 when Texas definitely was Texas. I’m not sure if we are back. But I think at least the fat lady has begun her scales. 

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Ok, everyone's been asking is Texas back? I think it depends on what your definition of back is. They're on a good little run, but what if they shit the bed against baylor or tech? Are they no longer back then? I think they are on the right track and that loss to maryland may have been exactly what they needed.  A swift kick in the ass and now they understand what the coaches are talking about and buying in. For me, if they are "back" the only game that the get a pass if they lose is WV.  They need to play for or win the conference title to say they are back. Win 10+ games per year and be in the conversation for a ny 6 bowl. I like how we're trending, but too early to say that Texas is back.

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The real question here is, are you enjoying this season? Are you starting to trust this Longhorn team? Do you expect a double digit win total? If you answered yes to two of these questions, I would venture to say your answer should be yes, the Longhorns are back. Enjoy the process, the wilderness is behind us.

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Colorful and victorious, Texas has boosted excitement in the Big 12 and college football

 

DALLAS -- Texas defensive end Breckyn Hager has often been told he resembles Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews. Same flowing blond hair, same side of the ball, same dashing flair.

"Different positions," Hager corrected.

Well, yeah, but the similarity persisted especially when Hager added that is father had somehow accessed Matthews' NFL Combine numbers from 2009.

"Mine are better," Hager said.

Never mind all this came in the moments following Texas' 48-45 Red River Showdown win Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. It's safe to say Hager's head is all over the place. The self-proclaimed "young prophet" is currently working on what he calls "a Nobel Peach Prize to prove God's existence."

Hager's head is all over the place, but contrary to his remarks, one of those places is not the NFL. For now, it's wise just to take this Type A, wild-man personality for he what he is -- a window into the Big 12 world.

Thanks to the likes of Hager, the Big 12 is the most exciting place to be in college football at the moment. Not the best, necessarily, but the most exciting.

 
PAID CONTENT BY BUICKThink you know Buick?Take another look at the fresh new Buick lineup.

The conference easily mocked for its lack of defense has always been fun. Now it's suddenly relevant with three teams ranked in the top 11, one of them undefeated West Virginia.

Oklahoma's Tyler Murray is the best player this side of Tua Tagovailoa. Will Grier is throwing missiles for the Mountaineers. Former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes is undefeated in the NFL. Baker Mayfield -- the living of embodiment of Big 12 swag -- just won his first NFL start.

No surprise the conference leads FBS averaging almost 36 points per team.

But the conference is nothing without Oklahoma and Texas being good at the same time. For the first time in about a decade, that is the case. And it could get a whole lot better.

"We just did something historical," Hager said. "I'd love to play them again."

In the immediate afterglow of Red River, an OU-Texas rematch a delicious prospect. If the Longhorns and Sooners do indeed finish (in some order) 1-2 in the Big 12, they would meet again Dec. 1 in the conference's championship game.

Based on results to date, the winner would have a tremendous push into the College Football Playoff. That also would mark the first same-reason rematch in the rivalry that counts itself right up there with Alabama-Auburn and Michigan-Ohio State.

"You know what, that's a good question. I haven't thought about it," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott while congratulating the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl's south end zone Saturday. "There really could be a rematch. You know what? Yeah."

It's been quite a drought for the Large Dozen. The last national championship was Texas' in 2005. Only the Pac-12 (2004) has a longer streak among Power Five leagues without a national title.

This week, Texas moved into the top 10 for the first time since 2010. No. 11 Oklahoma, which has two playoff appearances during a run of three straight Big 12 titles, dropped four spots after losing by a field goal with 9 seconds left.

That's about the best result the Big 12 could have hoped to see -- close outcome, two football factories (plus West Virginia) alive for the playoff headed toward the halfway point of the season.

Afterward, Hager greeted reporters like he greets the world. Everything is on the table. Every answer is unfiltered.

"These coaches are the best coaches in the country," said Hager, a senior from Austin, Texas. "… To slowly see us embrace the most difficult things in the world, I'm talking about the earliest mornings, things I don't even know if they're legal.

"But we did. We kept buying in."

Not since Colt McCoy was leading Texas to the 2009 BCS Championship Game have the Longhorns been this relevant. Not since Oklahoma's Brian Bosworth has there been a mouth in the conference to describe it in such colorful terms.

"I do things that normal people wouldn't do," Hager said. "That's why I am so confident. My confidence can be linked to results."

He makes no secret of being dissatisfied when Tom Herman replaced Charlie Strong in 2017. Early on, Hager showed up at the office of new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

"I quit. I'm quitting," Hager recalled saying. "I got moved to second on the depth chart. They were destroying me. I was destroying them back. [Orlando] goes, 'You're not quitting. Go eat, go put your clothes on, and go to practice. I'm sitting there crying."

It says a lot about Hager's character that Herman allows him to speak to the media. Then again, if he was silenced, Hager would still find a way.

How's this character: The family of legendary linebacker Tommy Nobis -- the first Longhorn selected No. 1 overall in the draft -- allowed Hager to wear Nobis' retired No. 60.  First in last year's Texas Bowl and then again Saturday against Oklahoma.

"I thought early when we got here two years ago, maybe that's just a show or an act of some sort," Herman said. "That's him. We love him. We embrace him, voted him a captain."

This is a glimpse behind Mack Brown's assertion that Texas is the New York Yankees of college football. You either love 'em or hate 'em.

"I would say, all my followers on social media, 90 percent of them, want me to lose and fail," Hager said. "I'm fine with that."

Hager has an inside look at this turnaround as quarterback Sam Ehlinger's roommate. Ehlinger has been the target of much criticism at a position that hasn't much thrived at Texas since McCoy was knocked out with a bum shoulder after the fifth snap of that Rose Bowl title game.

Texas and its quarterback position were never the same -- until now. Ehlinger emerged against Oklahoma has a dual-threat weapon who hasn't been intercepted since the opening-day Maryland loss.

"If I'm going to confess to you I'm a young prophet, Sam's destined for greatness," Hager said. "These things just don't happen. He's an angry lion. He beat Kyler Murray today. Kyler Murray is one of the great athletes in college football. We saw what people said after Maryland. We saw how toxic our fans were. We looked at each other and laughed."

Something has happened to the Longhorns in the 37 days since that loss to the Terps, now a respectable 3-2. Hager and the defense have been effective enough to be No. 2 in the Big 12, getting 10 turnovers. They are tied for the conference lead in forced fumbles (six).

The game-winning field goal was accomplished by an all-true freshman trio -- long-snapper Justin Mader, holder Ryan Bucjevski and kicker Cameron Dicker

"We're not done; we're not even close to being done," Hager said. "God told me we were going to win this this game. And God told me I was going to get my hair cut."

That will happen, the young prophet has already said, when the Horns win a Big 12 title.

https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/colorful-and-victorious-texas-has-boosted-excitement-in-the-big-12-and-college-football/

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What's next for Longhorns after Texas-sized triumph?

AUSTIN, Texas -- In the aftermath of Texas' biggest victory this decade, Chris Nelson slapped on the Golden Hat Trophy and repeatedly rubbed his lineman-sized belly.

Defensive end Breckyn Hager rocked a burnt orange-banded white cowboy hat atop his flowing golden locks like he was auditioning for some Quentin Tarantino Western.

And just outside the Cotton Bowl elevators leading down to a boisterous Longhorns locker room, fellow end Charles Omenihu engulfed Cameron Dicker"The Kicker" with a bear hug.

This is what "Texas is back" actually looked like.

After so many false alarms that turned ESPN play-by-play man Joe Tessitore's famous phrase into a punchline, this felt different than anything before.

The Longhorns didn't just beat some overhyped big-name opponent primed to plummet. They took down an Oklahoma team coming off two College Football Playoff appearances in the past three years and armed with one of the country's most devastating playmakers in quarterback Kyler Murray.

Texas didn't just defeat the Sooners, either. The Longhorns dominated, thoroughly. Sure, they needed Dicker's last-second field goal from 40 yards out to secure the 48-45 win. But after taking a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter, Texas left no doubt as to who the better side was.

This was no upset. And no accident.

And though Murray would ignite OU's improbable comeback with a series of electric plays late, the thousands of empty seats on the crimson side of the Cotton Bowl midway through the fourth quarter told the real story.

 
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Texas -- off to its best start since 2009 and ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 2010 -- is finally on its way back to national relevance in coach Tom Herman's second season.

 

Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP

"We've taken some really big steps here the last few weeks, I'm not going to deny that," Herman said. "I'm not going to downplay that for these players. They have taken some very important steps in this program's development and its progress. ... It would be foolish for me to not understand the big picture."

Herman has been steadfast in keeping the big picture in mind. That's why his message Saturday in the locker room differed little from the one he gave to his team following its disheartening season-opening loss at Maryland.

"I said to them (at Maryland) this game will not define us -- how we respond to it will," Herman said Monday. "I told them that about this Oklahoma game. That game won't define us. How we respond to it will.

"This is not the ultimate goal."

As well as the Longhorns played Saturday, their ultimate goal -- a fifth national championship -- still remains a ways out. Even Herman had to scoff at the notion Texas was suddenly ready to contend for the playoff after one Red River victory.

"Have you seen the last four years?" he said, referencing the program's streak of non-winning regular seasons. "I don't think we're at the place where we can say winning is expected -- and that's OK. Just that word in my mind reads entitlement, reads arrogance.

"Hopefully one day our 'C game' will be good enough to beat some people. Right now, we have to play our best to win. But if we do play our best, we have a great chance."

Herman is right. After all, both the Maryland and OU performances underscored that in opposite ways. The margin for error still is nowhere close to where it used to be during the Mack Brown heyday.

Herman, in particular, lamented the lack of game-breaking speed the Longhorns have on offense compared to OU, which, in addition to Murray, boasts a pair of burners on the outside in wideouts Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb.

"We're fast on the defense. Those guys are faster," Herman said. "We had a long conversation in our recruiting department about finding those guys for our team. We're not elite fast on offense right now.

"But we're playing to our strengths."

That has included tailoring a ball-control offense built around a bulldozing quarterback who just delivered the finest performance of his career.

One year after going toe-to-toe against OU Heisman winner Baker Mayfield as a true freshman, sophomore Sam Ehlinger passed for 314 yards, rushed for another 72 and totaled 5 touchdowns against the Sooners.

Ehlinger wasn't always perfect. But he was always in command, down to the final drive when he calmly drove the Longhorns into range for Dicker's game-winning field goal when OU had the momentum.

"Our team really believes in him right now," Herman said. "And there's a psychology to that."

Above all, that's what Texas has missed the most this decade. A quarterback to rally around.

 

That could've been fleeting in the wake of the Maryland game, when Ehlinger tossed the game-ending interception. Herman made sure that it wasn't.

"I told him, 'You don't need to look over your shoulder. I'll tell you when you do. You didn't lose the Maryland game for your team. We all lost that game,'" Herman said. "Having the head coach believe you allows you a little more confidence."

That unwavering has paid off, as Ehlinger has yet to throw an interception since.

"We made the decision for him to be our starting quarterback," said Herman, who called Ehlinger on the way home last week to remind him to just "grip and rip" against the Sooners.

"One game wasn't going to deter us."

To that end, one game alone doesn't mean Texas is back, either. But the Longhorns are in new waters. They sure seem to be on their way.

 

http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/24941757/texas-longhorns-whats-next-red-river-triumph

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16 hours ago, dillohorn said:

Those 2 games, the Maryland loss, and the unspectacular win over Tulsa, shows me UT is not back. I can only go by what I saw watching every play of every game. Improving yes, but not back. 

 

In 1969 we had to pull a miracle to beat UCLA.....in 2005 we had to do the same to beat Kansas for Gods sake!....Just because we sometimes struggle against teams we should easily handle does not indicate that we are mediocre....The fact that we pulled it out after Maryland shows that if we are not back we are certainly right at the door step.

 

In 1968 after 3 straight years of 6-4(yes, even St DKR had a few rough years) we started bu losing to TT and tying Houston. Talk about dark times....but then....we started winning....and winning some more. We did not lose another game until 31 games later, and even then we had to fumble 10 times to finally lose.......damned right we are back. We are back until we show that we are not back. This is very different from the..."we suck until we dont"...In fact it is polar opposite. 

 

Will we lose again this year?...Most likely we will at some point, but it is no longer certain. The football aint round...luck does come into play, let downs happen to the best teams, but by God we have a chance to be on the march to greatness. I plan on enjoying the ride.

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2 hours ago, TexExSpur said:

Not even close to being BACK, Texas will be back when they're hoisting trophies other than the Golden Hat over their heads.  

 

This squad should have beat OU last season as well.

Not even close to being BACK? You may be right but you have to admit that we're damn sure closer than we were last year or the year before or the year before or the year before. Hell, we're closer than we were 5 weeks, right?

 

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