This time last year, Tom Herman sat down for the Alamo Bowl postgame press conference with a distant look in his eyes.
One reporter asked the Texas football head coach how he would sustain the dominance his team displayed in its 38-10 victory over No. 11 Utah. The Longhorns knocked around a playoff hopeful, yet finished the 2019 regular season with a middling 7–5 record.
“I don’t have all the answers right now on New Year’s Eve as to how to get that done,” he said. “But I’m excited for the offseason to challenge these guys to understand what they’re capable of when they do play that way.”
Texas didn’t get that time in 2020.
That could be why the Longhorns, led by Herman’s brand new staff, found themselves back in San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl on Tuesday night. Under the dim lights of the Alamodome, they beat former Big 12 foe Colorado 55-23.
The Longhorns scored on the opening drive of the game on an 8-yard touchdown from freshman running back Bijan Robinson. The Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP, who rushed for 183 yards, put Texas up 14-0 with 5:28 to go in the first quarter.
As Robinson starred on offense, the defense shut the Buffaloes out early. Junior linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, the Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP, snagged an early interception and freshman Alfred Collins grabbed one of his own — with one hand.
“I’m going to have to give it to my boy AC,” Overshown said when asked whether he or Collins had the better pick. “That was crazy.”
Texas seemed unstoppable, much like last year against the Utes. But the second quarter looked very different, embodying the inconsistency that has characterized the team and program this season.
The offense went three-and-out on four straight drives in the late first quarter and then in the second. Robinson disappeared, but not by his own doing — he didn’t touch the ball again after his second score.
“(Running backs) coach (Stan) Drayton has a system and he wants to keep everybody healthy,” Robinson said.
Meanwhile, Colorado climbed back, knocking senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger around in the process. Out with a shoulder injury, he wouldn’t return for the rest of the game.
Ehlinger’s backup, redshirt sophomore Casey Thompson, increased Texas’ 17-10 lead to start the third quarter, throwing a touchdown to redshirt sophomore Joshua Moore on the Longhorns’ first possession of the half. He’d throw another to Moore to put Texas up 21 points with 8 minutes left in the third quarter.
“I had positive self talk, and I felt very comfortable in the moment,” Thompson said.
With the offense sparked and Robinson back in the game, Texas was rolling.
The Buffaloes continued to fight, scoring two more touchdowns with one late in the third quarter and the other in the fourth. But the Longhorns pulled away, sealing the deal on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Thompson. Texas had scored 48 points. With third-string quarterback Hudson Card in the game, the Longhorns scored one more touchdown.
Texas is now 4-0 in Bowl games during the Herman era, and the team made it through 2020. That’s worth celebrating, especially during this hellish year. Yet, the fanbase has seen this story unfold many times before: The Longhorns ride out into the sunset to close out the season and stumble through the next. It’s the cycle of excitement and heartbreak Texas fans have grown accustomed to.
Fielding questions about the future, Herman maintained a remote stare after this Alamo Bowl win, too — this time through a Zoom call. No one knows what 2021 holds for Texas football but the head coach likes where his team is headed.
“(It’s) a really, really good sign of things to come that we’re capable of doing,” Herman said.