SWEET SUC­CESS

Bohls on UT sports be­yond foot­ball

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Brian Davis bdavis@states­man.com

As yet an­other .500 sea­son bar­rels to­ward the fin­ish line, Texas coach Tom Her­man con­tin­ues to talk up the im­por­tance of get­ting his se­niors to a bowl game.

It’s a se­nior class that’s gone 21-26 since the start of the 2014 sea­son.

The re­al­ity is Her­man pre­sides over a pro­gram that’s crashed in two con­sec­u­tive Novem­bers. The 2015 squad lost two of its fi­nal three games and fin­ished 5-7. Last year’s team lost the fi­nal three games even when it knew Char­lie Strong’s job was in jeop­ardy. That group also fin­ished 5-7.

Texas (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) needs to win at least one more game to be­come bowl-el­i­gi­ble. Maybe that comes this week at West Vir­ginia (7-3, 5-2). If not, UT’s fi­nal chance will be at home against Texas Tech the day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing.

This is not what Her­man ex­pected, not by a long shot. This is a coach who thought the Longhorns had an out­side chance at get­ting to the Big 12 cham­pi­onship game. In­stead, he’s hav­ing to fall on his sword and ad­mit, “I think where we’re at is not where we’d hoped to be.”

“There’s no­body as­so­ci­ated with the Univer­sity of Texas that that af­fects more than us in terms of do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to make sure we end this thing on a pos­i­tive note,” Her­man said Mon­day. “But in terms of the di­rec­tion, boy, I think we are headed in a very, very healthy, good

di­rec­tion.”

Her­man be­gan to out­line his team’s strengths, start­ing with the group’s over­all ef­fort, in­ten­sity and phys­i­cal­ity.

“We have proven that when you can do those things re­gard­less of any de­fi­cien­cies you might have, re­gard­less of los­ing three starters up front on of­fense, re­gard­less of los­ing the Doak Walker Award win­ner at tail­back, re­gard­less of hav­ing to play mu­si­cal chairs at quar­ter­back be­cause of in­juries and both guys be­ing some­what in­ex­pe­ri­enced. If you do those things, if you play with great ef­fort, in­ten­sity and phys­i­cal­ity, you’ve got a chance to win,” Her­man said.

There was some good news Mon­day. Her­man said All-Amer­i­can left tackle Con­nor Wil­liams will play this week against the Moun­taineers. Wil­liams suf­fered a torn menis­cus in his left knee against USC on Sept. 16. He hasn’t played since.

Wil­liams is pro­jected by some to be a first-round draft pick next year if the ju­nior chooses to leave school. Should Wil­liams re­turn to a 5-5 team with just two games re­main­ing? Asked about his talks with Wil­liams, Her­man said, “I think I’d rather keep my con­ver­sa­tions with Con­nor pri­vate.”

Her­man also played coy about his QB sit­u­a­tion. Sopho­more Shane Buechele, who now has an 8-9 record as a starter, threw for 318 yards last sea­son against West Vir­ginia at Royal-Me­mo­rial Sta­dium. He also had the ben­e­fit of D’Onta Fore­man’s 167 rush­ing yards.

Buechele played the bulk of the game against Kansas on Satur­day. Fresh­man Sam Eh­linger did come into the fray and threw an 8-yard TD pass to Cade Brewer.

Her­man said a “wide va­ri­ety” of op­tions were avail­able against the Jay­hawks. That trans­lated into no time for third-stringer Jer­rod Heard. Texas de­ployed re­ceiver Lil’Jor­dan Humphrey in the back­field as a wild­cat run­ner.

Given how the sea­son is play­ing out, Her­man knows there are locker room mur­murs. All strug­gling teams have play­ers who speak out of frus­tra­tion. “The guys that are play­ing key roles for us usu­ally aren’t dis­grun­tled,” Her­man said. “I don’t think there’s an is­sue there.”

He does sense a gen­uine pull to get UT’s key se­niors to a bowl game. That in­cludes de­fen­sive tackle Poona Ford and line­backer Naashon Hughes, two team cap­tains. Cor­ner­back Ant­waun Davis, who just had his first two ca­reer in­ter­cep­tions against Kansas and was named the Big 12’s de­fen­sive player of the week, also is re­spected in the locker room.

Lorenzo Joe and Ar­manti Fore­man will have to carry the well-wishes of Do­rian Leonard, who’s out for the year with a frac­tured foot in­jury. Safety Ja­son Hall has also dealt out some blows in 45 ca­reer games at Texas. If it’s the Cac­tus, Heart of Dal­las or Texas Bowl, it’s bet­ter than noth­ing.

“I think we have a se­nior class, an ex­pe­ri­enced class that al­though small is very well-re­spected,” Her­man said. “I re­ally do think there is a gen­uine de­sire for our guys to make sure that we get them to the postseason and they can play one more game in the burnt or­ange and white.”

‘I think we have a se­nior class ... that al­though small is very well­re­spected.’ Tom Her­man Texas head coach

RI­CARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Longhorns coach Tom Her­man is work­ing to im­prove Texas’ 5-7 record dur­ing each of the past two sea­sons. His first chance comes Satur­day on the road at West Vir­ginia.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY STEPHEN SPILLMAN

Longhorns re­ceiver Lorenzo Joe cel­e­brates his TD catch on the first play of the game in Satur­day’s win.

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