Maryland loss provides a wake-up call for Texas

Trenton Daeschner

It was clear from the body language, the facial expressions and even some dilated pupils — Texas was shocked following its 51-41 season-opening loss to Maryland.

Head coach Tom Herman and Texas’ players left Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon trying to process what just happened. It started with Herman taking the podium for his postgame press conference. His face told the whole story before any questions were asked — this was not supposed to happen. Not after nine months of preparation.

“I really don’t know what to say about the result right now,” senior linebacker Naashon Hughes said after the game. “But I know the only way to fix it is to go back to work.”

Junior left tackle Connor Williams, who committed two critical holding penalties in the game, offered a blunter assessment.

“Losing sucks,” Williams said. “We need to make sure we’re never in this spot again.”

Losing is something the Longhorns have done a lot of in recent years. On Saturday, everyone was trying to ponder the same question in their minds: How could a team that had nine months to rid itself of the demons that plagued last year’s 5–7 season look seemingly the exact same?

At his weekly press conference on Monday, Herman was more upbeat than he was following Saturday’s loss. He described the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center as a “somber place” on Sunday when the team met to watch film. He diagnosed the Longhorns’ overwhelming amount of errors on Saturday to players simply trying too hard to be perfect.

“I told the team (Sunday) the fastest way to failure is to play in fear of failure,” Herman said. “There were things that happened on Saturday that we as coaches hadn’t seen since spring ball — mistakes and habits and techniques that had been corrected and had been what we thought were ingrained into habit, and they showed back up at times, very inopportune times, on Saturday.”

The mistakes were glaring. The Longhorns gave up numerous big plays on defense, killed drives on offense with penalties and had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown. They added a fumbled kick return for good measure. 

But as difficult as the loss to Maryland was, the Longhorns still have San Jose State coming to town on Saturday. Herman sarcastically recognized as much when asked about how this team will move forward and regroup.

“We do play a game this week, don’t we?” Herman said.

Herman made it clear that when trying to change a culture, flare-ups — like the one Saturday — can happen. He cited former head coach Mack Brown starting his career on the 40 Acres with two losses in his first three contests, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban losing to Louisiana-Monroe in his first season in Tuscaloosa.

Saturday may have felt like a gut-punch, but Herman said there’s no time for players to feel sorry for themselves. The loss to Maryland is in the past, and San Jose State now deserves the Longhorns’ full attention. Otherwise, Texas could be in for another rude awakening come Saturday afternoon.

“The team is disappointed, certainly,” Herman said. “We all are — the fans, students. But nobody’s more disappointed than our players and coaches. We can’t let disappointment turn into distraction. We can’t let Maryland beat us twice.”