AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Tom Herman called the rebuilding job at Texas a marathon, not a sprint. In either scenario, the Longhorns tripped and fell at the start.
Herman faced a lot of questions this week after a season-opening home loss to Maryland, and the only answer that will soothe Longhorns fans is a convincing win over San Jose State (1-1) on Saturday. Texas should have all the advantages of size, speed and home field, but even Herman called his team mentally fragile.
Texas needs a confidence builder, and quick. After Saturday, the Longhorns play at Southern California before starting the Big 12 schedule. Just one game into the season and the Longhorns have already held a players-only meeting to rally the troops.
“We watched film and can tell everybody’s face is just disgusted on how we played,” Texas defensive back P.J. Locke III said. “Us losing like that, we’ve got to know that that can’t fly around here.”
Texas fans would say the same after three straight losing seasons. While Herman might call it a marathon rebuilding project, he’s getting paid sprinter money at $5.2 million this season.
“The first hiccup is not to panic. The first hiccup is not to press eject. The first hiccup is not to just fire people from their jobs or fire players from their spots on the depth chart. We got to coach them better,” Herman said.
San Jose State will look overmatched on paper, but so did a Maryland team that scored 51 points against Texas in convincing and often bruising style. The Spartans lost their season opener to South Florida — coached by Herman’s predecessor Charlie Strong — and beat FCS opponent Cal Poly last week.
Five things to watch when Texas and San Jose State play Saturday:
BUECHELE’S BUM SHOULDER: Texas starting quarterback Shane Buechele has not thrown in practice this week because of a bruised shoulder and Herman said his status will be a game-day decision.
Buechele is 5-8 in his career as a starter. He threw for 375 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland. If Buechele can’t play, freshman Sam Ehlinger will start with wide receiver Jerrod Heard as the emergency option. Heard is a former quarterback who started much of the 2015 season when Texas finished 5-7. Buechele set a Texas freshman record last season with nearly 3,000 yards passing and 21 touchdowns.
SPARTANS PASSERS: Sophomore Josh Love started the first two games but it was freshman Montel Adams who led the comeback win over Cal Poly with 183 yards passing and three touchdowns. His four touchdowns passes this season are the most by a Spartans freshman since freshman eligibility was reinstated in 1972. Whoever is throwing the ball will face a Texas secondary that allowed Maryland quarterbacks to complete 12 of 15 passes with two touchdowns.
MISSING LINEBACKERS: Texas gave up 263 yards rushing to Maryland at 6.1 yards per carry and linebackers Malik Jefferson, Naashon Hughes and Anthony Wheeler were routinely caught out of position or missed tackles. Texas has to shore up its run-support defense not just against the Spartans but for the season. “I take losses personally and I was hurting a lot,” after the loss, Hughes said.
HOT HOLTON HILL: The Texas defensive back leads the Longhorns in scoring after one game with two touchdowns against Maryland. He returned an interception for a touchdown on the third play of the season and returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown. They were Texas’s first non-offensive touchdowns since 2015.
TEXAS SPECIAL TEAMS: Longhorns special teams continue to be entertaining and maddening with big plays and mistakes galore. Against Maryland, Texas scored two special teams touchdowns on a punt return and blocked field goal. The Longhorns also missed a field goal, had another blocked and returned for a TD and fumbled a kickoff to set up a score.
More AP college football at www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25