AUSTIN — Tom Herman had one goal entering his first game as coach of the Longhorns; beat Maryland and start 1-0.
The Terrapins had something else in store.
Behind the arm and legs of Tyrrell Pigrome, and a stable of ball-carriers, Maryland humbled the Horns, 51-41, at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
“Obviously not the result that any of us wanted or expected,” said Herman. “But that’s a really good football team coached by DJ Durkin and a lot of respect for them. There was never doubt. There was no ‘here we go again’. There was no bad body language, none of that, which I’m proud of. But we’ve got to play better.”
By playing better, Herman means stopping the run. Maryland tallied 263 yards at 6.1 per carry. That will win you some games.
“We’ve got to stop the run,” Herman explained. “That was – I’ve never – with a conventional offense, seen us give up so many rushing yards. And then obviously we’ve got to do a better job in the red zone and on fourth down on offense. But we’re our own worst enemy right now.”
Worst enemy? Texas gave up five sacks, had Shane Buechele scramble a dozen times, missed two field goals (one blocked), and had 11 penalties for 117 yards. Herman said they’d have some adversity, but this is much deeper than that.
“We had adversity and we knew the key to it is how we responded,” said Herman. “But the execution and just the self-inflicted wounds at just the most inopportune times are things that are difficult to recover from, if not impossible.”
And it started so nice.
Texas (0-1) got on the board within minutes when Holton Hill picked off Pigrome and went 31 yards to the house for an early 7-0 advantage.
However, Maryland (1-0) responded after flustering Shane Buechele into a sack, then forcing a INT at midfield. The Terrapins answered when Pigrome redeemed himself with a 25-yard scoring jaunt, and a 7-7 mark.
When the UT offense returned to the field, they went on a 8-play, 65-yard drive culminating in a Josh Rowland 42-yard missed field goal. UM took over, and three plays later hit paydirt with a Pigrome to DJ Moore 20-yard TD toss. After going down 7-0 early, the Terps responded with 14 unanswered points. They rushed for 108 yards in the first quarter at 9.8 per clip.
Texas opened the 2nd quarter with a nice, long drive. Rowland’s 44-yard kick was blocked, and UM defender Antoine Brooks returned it 71 yards for the score. 21 unanswered points for the Terrapins early in the 2nd quarter.
Two drives later, Pigrome hit Taivon Jacobs on a 46-yard pitch-and-catch for a 27-7 lead midway through the 2nd quarter.
Texas would eventually respond thanks again to Hill when he housed a FG attempt blocked by Poona Ford 65 yards for the TD. It brought Texas back within 16 right before halftime.
In the third, Texas woke up.
Buechele led the Horns down the field, hitting Armanti Foreman for a 33-yard TD pass and giving the Longhorn faithful life. After a Maryland 3-and-out, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps took a 91-yard punt return to the house, and the 70K fans in DKR erupted. It brought UT from a 20-point deficit to a 3-point margin. That’s as close at Texas would get.
Buechele finished 34 of 52 for 375 yards, two TDs, and one INT. He also rushed 15 times, more than what the rest of the backfield produced – Warren had eight, Porter had six.
Maryland responded with Ty Johnson’s 40-yard TD run, pushing the Terps’ lead back to 10, 37-27. But yet again, Texas wouldn’t go away.
The Horns marched 66 yards on nine plays in a little over three minutes culminating in a Buechele 3-yard scoring scamper.
At the beginning of the final stanza, the Terps missed a 50-yard field goal, and UT took over from its own 32. But UT proceeded to turn it over on downs for the third time.
The special teams on Saturday were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. “It was just a weird game,” Herman said.
Missed field goals, blocked field goals, fumbled kickoff returns, and big plays highlighted the third phase of the sport. If Texas worked on STs all spring and summer, I’m not exactly sure on what.
There were positives. Hill scored two TDs (FG block, INT). Texas held UM to 3-of-11 on third downs, UT threw for 375 yards and were 9-of-18 on its own third down conversions. UT had three non-offensive touchdowns in the game after recording zero in all of 2016. Redshirt freshman Reggie Hemphill-Mapps was a welcome sight. He netted 69 yards on seven catches, and a 91-yard punt return for a score.
Hill said he played for his family and friends in Houston suffering through the floods and devastation. “I had a chip on my shoulder,” Hill said. He’s the first FBS player in the last 10 years to score a TD on a pick-6 and blocked kick.
In the end,
“I told our guys never get used to this feeling,” said Herman. “But if that we all thought that we were going to come in here and in nine months, sprinkle some fairy dust on this team and think that we’ve arrived, then we’re wrong.”