Armanti Foreman

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

HOUSTON – As the clock struck zero at NRG stadium on Wednesday night, the Longhorns’ seniors experienced a pair of firsts: a bowl victory and a win in their season finale.

In Texas’ previous three seasons, the burnt orange ended the year on a sour note. A 2014 Texas Bowl loss was followed by back-to-back years without a postseason contest, paired with dispiriting defeats to end the season. But as Wednesday night bled into Thursday morning, the bitter memories faded, and the Longhorn seniors clutched onto the Texas Bowl trophy at midfield.

"I couldn’t be prouder of this senior class,” head coach Tom Herman said. “They were the glue that held this up-and-down season together. I think they knew what was ahead for this program, and they wanted to make sure that they left their mark on this next chapter of Texas football and they did.”

Six senior took the field for the Longhorns on Wednesday night, with four coming on defense (linebacker Naashon Hughes, defensive backs Jason Hall and Antwuan Davis and nose tackle Poona Ford) along with two receivers, Lorenzo Joe and Armanti Foreman. Each made a contribution in the 33-16 victory, capped by Foreman’s 18-yard dash to the end zone to seal the win late in the fourth quarter.

Foreman’s final play of his Longhorn career put an exclamation mark on a largely disappointing senior season. The Texas City product entered 2017 a year removed from leading the Longhorns with 34 catches, but found himself tethered to the bench for much of Herman’s first season. Foreman tallied just seven catches over a six-week stretch, failing to find the endzone in any game.

But both Foreman’s final contest in Austin – a five-reception, one-touchdown performance against Texas Tech – and his final effort for the burnt orange on Wednesday salvaged his final season in Austin. And the fourth-quarter touchdown was the icing on the cake.

“We wanted to make sure if we were to call a reverse that it would have been (Foreman) because he’s a senior and he has played well for us here down the stretch,” Herman said. “He deserved it by how he’s prepared and how he’s practiced. My hats off to him. He’s had a really, really good last month of the year. We hope he has continued success. Hopefully playing this game for quite some time.”

On the other side of the ball, the Longhorn defense was its usual stout self, halting a Missouri attack that led the SEC in both yards and points per game in 2017. But while the defense’s performance in Houston mirrored the standard set by defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, it was a far cry from the woes that plagued the Longhorn defense under former head coach Charlie Strong.

In the final two years of Strong’s tenure, Texas ranked No. 91 and No. 87 in the nation in total defense, surrendering over 30 points per game in 2015 and 2016. Seemingly every facet of the Longhorn defense struggled to keep up with the potent offenses in the Big 12, allowing a slew of big plays while failing to generate stops in key moments. Under Strong, Texas’ defense gave up over 40 points 10 times.

But the tide turned under Orlando in 2017.

Save for an opening-day loss to Maryland – in which the Longhorns allowed 51 points to the Terrapins – Texas held opponents to an average of 18.8 points per game, a mark that ranked No. 15 in the NCAA. And following a 16-point, four-turnover effort in the Texas Bowl, the Longhorn seniors believe they’ve laid the foundation for a fearsome defense in years to come.

“The sky is the limit for this defense,” Hughes said. “There’s a lot of guys returning, a lot of guys coming in, a great recruiting class coming in. This can be another top 10 defense, easily.”

The senior class departing from Texas will take with them one of the roughest stretches in program history. A 23–27 record, three losing seasons and three years without a bowl victory.

But that didn’t matter at the final buzzer on Wednesday night. The Longhorn seniors left NRG Stadium with a bowl victory, a win in the season finale and the first winning season in their time on the 40 Acres.

Photo Credit: Gabby Lanza | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ players met with the media on Tuesday evening in advance of the Longhorns’ upcoming battle with winless Baylor. The Longhorns enter the matchup sitting at 3–4, 2–2 Big 12, and are looking to rebound from a 13-10 overtime loss to Oklahoma State last week. Here’s what the Longhorns had to say:

 

Dickson reflects on stellar season

One of the upsides for the Longhorns following Saturday’s tight defeat was the continued excellence of punter Michael Dickson. The junior from Sydney, Australia, booted 11 punts against the Cowboys, averaging 51 yards per punt. He’s also now skied a 60-plus yard punt in five of seven contests, including a 66-yarder on Saturday to pin Oklahoma State deep within its own territory.

And Dickson received some recognition for his efforts, too. The burnt orange crowd began streams of cheers for Dickson after his frequent appearances on the turf, heaping praise usually reserved for standout quarterbacks and defensive stars.

“I heard some of the chants, I love it,” Dickson said. “It means a lot to get a chant for just punting the ball. It makes me smile, makes me feel confident when I go out there.”

Dickson said his goal heading into the season was to average over 50 yards per punt. Heading into week eight, he’s just under that mark, averaging just over 49 yards per attempt. 

 

Crowded receivers room stays competitive

We are now seven games into Texas’ season, and seven Longhorns have tallied over 10 catches this season. With so many contributors to the unit, the burnt orange receivers know they must be ready to enter the action whenever their name is called.

“We’re a very competitive group,” senior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe said. “But we know when we get in the game, whoever’s in there, we’re going to be encouraging each other. Nobody’s getting down, it doesn’t matter who gets the most reps.”

One receiver who has been noticeably absent in recent weeks is Armanti Foreman. The senior tallied 34 catches and three touchdowns in 2016 but hasn’t appeared in a game for Texas since its battle with Iowa State on September 28. 

Head coach Tom Herman addressed Foreman’s lack of playing time, noting that poor practice performance has caused the Texas City product to remain on the bench. But Joe believes Foreman has turned a corner and will be on the field in Waco on Saturday morning.  

“I know it’s hard but (Foreman’s) handled it well,” Joe said. “He’s come out to practice the past couple of days, he’s been working really hard … We see what he’s done in the past, so when he gets out there, he’s going to make plays.”

Stock Up: Armanti Foreman

For the first time this season, a receiver other than seniors Jaxon Shipley and John Harris stepped up. Coming into Stillwater, Oklahoma, Foreman had never recorded no more than 12 receiving yards in a  game, but against the Cowboys, the true freshman racked up 74 yards and a touchdown, showing his ability to stretch the field. Texas needs some other receivers to step up and show promise for what appears as though will be a weak receiving corps next season. With his performance Saturday, Foreman showed he has the ability to be one of those guys.

Stock Down: Marcus Johnson

The junior receiver keeps falling further and further down the depth chart. Sophomore Jacorey Warrick and freshman Armanti Foreman both outperformed the junior in the last game and appear ready to overtake him on the depth chart. Johnson needs to earn the trust of sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes in the next couple games if he wants to be a major factor next year. He is struggling to get by defenders on deep balls, which are supposed to be his strength, and is dropping balls on shorter routes. What a disappointment Johnson has been.

Stock Up: Malcom Brown

The junior defensive tackle was absolutely dominant. It’s nothing new, as he has arguably been the best player for Texas this year. He recorded two sacks and forced a fumble in Stillwater. It was his first multi-sack game since the UCLA game. Most important for him was his ability to stuff the run. He got into the backfield quickly and often, helping limit the Cowboys to just 23 carries for 34 yards. That’s a 1.5-yard-per-carry average. While Brown doesn’t deserve all the credit for shutting down the run, he was certainly the biggest reason for it.

Stock Up: Tyrone Swoopes

Mr. Inconsistency is at it again. After back-to-back 300 yard games midseason, the sophomore appeared to have turned the corner. Then he laid three straight eggs against Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Against Oklahoma State, however, he was far and away the best quarterback on the field. He completed 72 percent of his passes — his highest rate of the season — en route to yet another 300-yard game. Unlike his other 300-yard outings, however, he didn’t throw a pick. Another performance like that will give Texas a chance against TCU. But who knows what Texas will get out of Mr. Inconsistency?

Freshman Armanti Foreman has played in the shadows of other receivers this season, but he caught the fans’ attention with a 45-yard touchdown reception against Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

There’s always a benefit to a fresh perspective — something head coach Charlie Strong is well aware of.

Entering his first year at Texas, Strong didn’t bring preconceived notions of what works and what doesn’t. He didn’t assume stars from 2012 and 2013 would automatically be team leaders in 2014. Instead, he let each player prove himself during off-season training.

As a result, Strong has given a host of true freshmen serious playing time. Among them, wide receiver Armanti Foreman has secured his spot on the field. Playing in every game this season except the UCLA contest, Foreman has established himself as a presence on Texas’ offensive and special teams units.

“He’s still a young receiver, still learning, but he’s going to develop into a really good player,” Strong said.

Against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Oklahoma, last weekend, Foreman learned at least one thing: what it feels like to catch a touchdown. Driving home a 45-yard reception from sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes in the fourth quarter, Foreman capped off Texas’ 28-7 win. He also became the first freshman on the 2014 squad to score.

Swoopes said Foreman and the other rookies elevated their level of play Saturday.

“It was great seeing young guys come in and step up,” Swoopes said. “We’ve told them all season to stay ready because you just never know. So it was great seeing [Foreman] come in and have a big part in the win.”

Strong, too, commended the play.

“He made an unbelievable catch on that one that Tyrone laid out,” Strong said. “It looked like he hit another gear and went and got that ball, which was really a big catch.”

Foreman has made big catches before. Ranked as the No. 15 wide receiver in the class of 2014 by ESPN, Foreman caught 149 passes for 3,067 yards and 32 touchdowns throughout his high school career. He didn’t claim District 24-4A MVP in 2013 alone. Instead, he and his brother D’Onta, a freshman running back for Texas, shared the MVP honors. But Armanti Foreman has skills, and they don’t only extend to the offensive domain. The 2013 first-team All-District defensive back from Texas City also has a knack for throwing off defenders.

“We put him back on kickoff return because he’s a guy that can make people miss,” Strong said. “You like to get him in because, once he gets in the open, he can make people miss and he can outrun people.”

Foreman still has a ways to go. But he’s moving forward, both figuratively and literally, as he posted a career-high two receptions for 74 yards this weekend. Although he only scored directly on the second play, his initial 29-yard catch in the third quarter positioned Texas to kick a field goal. His presence on the field translates to the scoreboard quickly, and those points on the scoreboard translate to a win. Strong says many things help a program, but none more so than a win.

“Winning solves a lot of problems for you,” Strong said. “When you win games, guys start believing in the system.”

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

STILLWATER, OK. — Riding a two-game win streak, the Longhorns are in Stillwater, Oklahoma, to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys tonight. In a matchup of two desperate teams, the Longhorns will look to get their sixth win of the season and gain bowl elibigbility. Follow here and @texansports on Twitter for live updates and commentary.

9:45 - 4Q 0:00 - Texas 28, Oklahoma State 7 - The Longhorns defeat the Cowboys to earn their sixth win of the season and gain bowl eligibility.

9:27- 4Q 4:31- Texas 28 Oklahoma State 7- Swoopes finds freshman wide receiver Armanti Foreman for the 45-yard score.

9:16- 4Q 9:02- Texas 22 Oklahoma State 7- The Cowboys drive 61 yards on 10 plays to avoid the shut out. 

9:02- End of the Third Quarter- Texas 22 Oklahoma State 0- Longhorns force an eighth punt by Oklahoma State. They will start the fourth quarter from their own 26.

8:45- 3Q 7:37  - Texas 22 Oklahoma State 0- Placekicker Nick Rose nails a 44-yard field goal. He has converted on three of his four field goal attempts thus far

8:44- 3Q 9:00- Texas 19 Oklahoma State 0- Swoopes finds freshman wide receiver Armanti Foreman for 29-yards on third down for his longest completion of the game thus far.

8:28- 3Q 13:13- Texas 19 Oklahoma State 0- Texas is forced to punt for the first time tonight on its first possession of the half. Oklahoma State starts with the ball at the 50. 

7:58- End of the First Half- Texas 19 Oklahoma State 0- Sophomore safety Dylan Haines intercepts a Daxx Garman pass in the end zone to preserve the shutout. Haines, a former walk-on is tied for the team lead in interceptions with three. 

7:54- 2Q 0:43- Texas 19 Oklahoma State 0- Junior placekicker Nick Rose connects from 34-yards out. Texas has scored on four of its first five drives. It has outgained Oklahoma State 263-26 thus far.

7:48- 2Q 2:00- Texas 16 Oklahoma State 0- Longhorns force another punt thanks to consecutive sacks. The Longhorns lead the sack battle 3-1 thus far. Since sacks became an official sack, they have never lost to Oklahoma State when they record at least the same number of sacks as the Cowboys.

7:43- 2Q 2:34- Texas 16 Oklahoma State 0- Senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley nearly hauls in a touchdown but is injured on the play. Junior placekicker Nick Rose misses a 21-yard field goal off of the upright. First time this half the Longhorns fail to score.

7:31- 2Q 8:06- Texas 16 Oklahoma State 0: Texas forces the Cowboys to punt for the fourth time this half. Longhorns start the drive at their own 36.

7:23- 2Q 9:33- Texas 16 Oklahoma State 0: Junior placekicker Nick Rose connects on a 51-yard field goal. Texas has scored on all three of its possessions and have outgained the Cowboys 174-29 from scrimmage thus far. 

7:12- End of the 1st Quarter- Texas 13 Oklahoma State 0: The Cowboys finally move the ball for positive yards but are forced to punt. Texas opens the second quarter from its own 35, up two scores. 

7:04- 1Q 2:33- Texas 13 Oklahoma State 0: Junior running back Johnathan Gray runs it in from six-yards out to give the Longhorns a two score lead. Gray now has scored five touchdowns in the last three games.

6:55- 1Q 6:31- Texas 6 Oklahoma State 0: The Longhorns force another punt and start this drive from their own 19. The Oklahoma State offense has run six plays for negative six yards through two possessions. 

6:48-1Q 8:07- Texas 6 Oklahoma State 0: The Longhorns strike first on a 10 play 57-yard drive capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Swoopes to senior wide receiver John Harris. The Longhorns do not convert the ensuing PAT. Swoopes has now thrown nine of his 11 touchdown passes in the red zone.

6:44-1Q 9:00- Texas 0 Oklahoma State 0: Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is sacked for an 11-yard loss to the Oklahoma State 30 yard line.

6:39-1Q- Texas 0 Oklahoma State 0: The Longhorns force a three and out after a sack by junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Longhorns begin the possession from their own 38.

6:33- Texas wins the coin toss and defers to the second half. Oklahoma State will receive the opening kickoff.

Between a handful of injuries and two handfuls of suspended players over the past few years, the Texas football staff has learned to rely on more than just veteran players alone. 

As Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense, said, success doesn’t just require “work with ones,” but, instead, in the era of head coach Charlie Strong, the Longhorns look to “develop the team.” With this philosophy, the staff expects to reward freshman standouts who have already proven themselves in the offseason.

“We play with what we have, and we’re always looking to develop younger players so that they’re in place to play,” Watson said. “We always have that philosophy. During training camp, we work with ones, twos and threes so that we can bring the younger players along and increase our depth. It always works out in a formula for a season.”

Among the freshmen rumored to run the offense Saturday are wide receivers Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe. Foreman, the No. 15 wide receiver in the class of 2014, according to ESPN, was a four-time district honoree at Texas City High School, recording 32 touchdowns throughout his high school career before he and his brother, freshman running back D’Onta Foreman, signed with Texas. Joe, an Abilene Cooper High School graduate, arrives in Austin with three all-district honors behind him, including the District 2-5A Offensive Most Valuable Player his senior year as quarterback. Behind center, he passed for 1,864 yards with a 58.3 percent completion rate and also rushed for 1,657 yards, averaging 8.1 yards per carry.

However, his high school performance only got him a spot on the roster. With Strong’s motto for earning privileges, Joe also needs to earn his spot on the playing field. Now, Watson believes Joe’s summer showing has proven that.

“Lorenzo Joe is going to be a factor in our season somewhere down the road,” Watson said. “When? It’s probably going to be when the opportunity presents itself, but he’s been prepared.”

Though he’ll no longer jog out to center, Joe has worked closely with junior starting quarterback David Ash throughout training. Ash said Foreman and Joe showed a “tremendous amount of dedication” that will translate to execution on the field.

“It was a hard camp,” Ash said. “It was a grind, and those guys came out every day, and they improved each and every day. They learned more and more, [showing that], beyond the shadow of a doubt, they have the capability and the ability to play football at this level. It won’t be long before they’re a huge part of what we do.”

Defensively, Strong anticipates freshman defensive back Jason Hall will also see playing time. According to Strong, ESPN’s No. 87 safety in the nation has positioned himself to contribute. The All-State 5A honorable mention tallied 57 tackles, six interceptions and six pass breakups his senior year of high school, claiming the compliments of Texas’ leading defensive back Quandre Diggs.

“He’s a guy that will come up and hit you,” Diggs said. “He’s rangy. He’s like 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, and he’s smart. He’s instinctive. He’s a freshman who came in and worked his tail off. He’s always had a hunger for the game.”

Freshman running back Donald Catalon has also garnered recognition, although Watson anticipates giving him a little more time to develop before he hits the field.