As Texas head coach Tom Herman reached the podium for his press conference Monday afternoon, he didn’t begin by discussing the turnovers or the quarterback play. He began by comparing the Longhorns’ performance to the American literary novel “Of Mice and Men.”
“I told Gary Johnson — yesterday we were talking about it — and he had never read ‘Of Mice and Men,’” Herman said. “I told him he needs to read ‘Of Mice and Men.’ It was kind of Lennie with the rabbit and with George. Right; that Lennie wanted so badly to touch the rabbit and play with the rabbit, and he squeezed it so hard, he killed the rabbit.”
Even though Herman’s metaphor was incorrect as Lennie never actually killed a rabbit, but a puppy instead, the reference fit the description of Saturday’s game in many ways. Texas players and coaches talked about the excitement surrounding the week one game since fall camp began, and when it was time to take the field, it showed — just too much, perhaps.
“To me, I know that seems maybe out there a little bit, but I think that’s what the first quarter was,” Herman said. “We wanted it so badly that we got in our own way quite a bit, and that’s correctable.”
The 34-29 loss to a Maryland program led by an interim head coach Matt Canada is a bitter disappointment for a Texas program that uses the motto “1–0” at the forefront of its vocabulary.
A slow start that led to the Terrapins jumping out to a 24-7 lead midway through the second quarter and three fourth-quarter turnovers combined with no points showed that Texas is still a work in progress rather than the finished product that fans were once again hoping for.
“We’re learning how to win, Herman said. “I think, again, losses are unacceptable. Losses hurt really bad. It was like a funeral home around our building yesterday, and it should be. It should be. Because if it doesn’t matter, then you don’t care.”
Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger played a crucial part in the team’s chances of winning down the final stretch of the game. On the final drive, Ehlinger threw a pass directly within reach of junior wide receiver Devin Duvernay to keep the drive going on fourth down. Three plays later, a deep ball sailed high over the head of junior wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey and was intercepted by a Maryland defensive back.
Though Ehlinger exhibited the same late-game traits as last season — laser throws to keep drives alive and devastating turnovers — Herman said he never doubted his decision to play Ehlinger for the full duration of the game.
“I don’t think now’s the time to (switch quarterbacks), I really don’t,” Herman said. “You start, you’re going to wind up in the same situation that you were in last year. We made a decision. I don’t think, certainly Sam didn’t play perfect, but nobody did, and his errors weren’t egregious enough to merit just dumping him on the depth chart.”
As for the injury report, Herman said senior cornerback Kris Boyd would be listed as “probable” if the team used NFL designations. Senior cornerback Davante Davis and junior safety Brandon Jones are “questionable,” as well.