Herman prepares for Texas-sized stage against Sooners

Ross Burkhart

Texas head coach Tom Herman is five days away from the biggest game of his career.

Ahead of the title fight between Herman’s Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners, the second-year coach met with the media Monday. He discussed the Red River Rematch, the impending questions surrounding the health of quarterback Sam Ehlinger and the tall task of containing Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.

Here’s what Herman had to say:

We’re not in Dallas anymore

While Texas-OU is headed back to the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metroplex for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff, this time, the two rivals will face off at AT&T Stadium in Arlington instead of Fair Park in Dallas, and Herman quickly reminded his players the stakes are different this time around.

The Longhorns are fully aware of the task at hand entering this week of practice but will operate under the same 1–0 mentality they’ve had all season, despite this game paying out much more than a year’s worth of bragging rights.

“I did tell our guys, this is not the Red River Showdown, this is not October,” Herman said. “That game was played in the Cotton Bowl, and that’s played for the Golden Hat, and that one is over. Our motivation, I would hope, playing in the conference championship game would be the same were it any other opponent. I think our team believes that and buys into that.”

Ehlinger’s health still in question

After last Friday’s win over Kansas, Ehlinger told Longhorn Network the AC contusion he suffered against Iowa State was aggravated after taking some hits, but wasn’t limiting in any way.

While Ehlinger was quick to downplay the severity of the injury, his box score numbers were affected as he threw his first two interceptions since the season opener on Sept. 1. However, with an extra day of preparation, the injury should bother him less than it did last week, according to Herman.

“Yeah, it was bothering him,” Herman said. “It’s going to bother him this week, too, but … I think it’s going to bother him significantly less playing Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game than it bothered him against Kansas. We had that extra day, too, which is critical, and he’ll be throwing again on Tuesday, which last week, he didn’t even throw on the Tuesday version of that week’s practice, which was on a Monday.”

Containing the Heisman hopeful

The last time the Longhorns and Sooners met, Kyler Murray was a major factor during OU’s late-game push, accounting for nearly 400 total yards through the air and on the ground, but also gave up two costly turnovers.

Murray’s stellar season hasn’t slowed down in the two months since then, and it’s not likely to on Saturday, giving Herman and his coaching staff another difficult opportunity to limit his production.

“I think we did a good job of collapsing the pocket (last time),” Herman said. “We did not want him on read plays. We certainly didn’t want him carrying the football out there on the loose.”

Herman also announced safety Brandon Jones is on track for a return to the field, saying the junior will likely practice Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. Jones recorded a team-high seven tackles before leaving the Kansas game with a head injury.

Jones, who is Texas’ fourth-leading tackler of the season despite missing four games, should certainly provide a boost for the Longhorns on Saturday.