All in: Herman forces Texas’ hand

Alex Briseño

The Longhorns got on the bus and left the Cotton Bowl riding a five-game win streak all the way back home to Austin. The Longhorns traded in the Ferris wheel, Fletcher’s corn dogs and all of the prestige that comes with the State Fair of Texas for one Golden Hat, which now puts Texas at No. 9 in the country.

Texas’ turnaround after its Week One upset loss is almost as inexplicable as the Longhorns’ mind-boggling visit to FedExField on Sept. 1. But this team is convinced USC might still be partying in LA and Texas might not be exuding Big Dicker Energy if the Longhorns didn’t collapse in the season opener.

“That loss was really the best thing that happened to us,” wide receiver Collin Johnson said. “It just really opened up our eyes to some things that needed to be fixed. It just tested this team’s maturity and we responded the right way and that’s why the season has been going the way that it has been so far but we can only just build on it from here and put OU behind us.”

After the Maryland loss, Herman decided he needed something tangible to know his team was all in. One idea seemed obvious: poker chips.

Each player is given one chip. When game time arrives, Herman asks for them back.

“We usually get them on Friday, before our team dinner,” wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey said. “… We turn them in every game to just to show that we’re going all in, putting everything in all week in practice and we’re ready to play.”

Players can’t win more chips with more wins. They receive one chip each week, but Herman’s style of gambling has paid off so far. Since the loss to Maryland, the Longhorns have ripped off a five-game winning streak, including wins over USC, TCU and Oklahoma.

“I think the first game of the season we kind of hesitated as a team and really didn’t know what to expect,” safety Brandon Jones said. “From then on, we’re just trusting our abilities and the poker chip thing that Coach Herman brought to us was a good thing just to show and to have a visual picture of actually being all in and taking his advice on that.”

If it seems like a decade since Texas has gone 5–1, that’s because it almost has been. This is the Longhorns’ best start since 2009 when they went 6–0. While Texas’ defense still gave up a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and 45 points in the game, freshman kicker Cameron Dicker’s game-winning kick makes this week’s adjustments much easier to make.

“I can’t tell you the last time I’ve won five games in a row, especially at this level,” defensive end Charles Omenihu said. “It always feels good to win, winning is contagious, winning is addicting, and so it feels good — I like this kind of addiction. It feels a lot better when you come in and you still have corrections to do, but it’s just a lot better to correct when you win than to correct things when you lose because the corrections seem a lot bigger when you lose.”

As for the chips, this week will be no different from the past five. Herman will give his players poker chips on Friday night, and they will be asked to go all in yet again.