Maryland @ Texas September 2, 2017 Recap
Writer: Lucas Garza
DKR Memorial Stadium was not packed on a hot summer’s day in Central Texas, but those who were there were eager to see how Herman’s horns would play. Three minutes into the Tom Herman era of Longhorn football, not a single thing had gone wrong for the Horns. On Maryland’s opening drive, Texas’ junior DB Holton Hill had an interception and took it the house for six points. On the Terrapin’s next drive, the Horns forced a punt after a huge Malik Jefferson tackle led to a three and out series by the Maryland offense. But oh how the tables would turn for the Horns.
On the offense’s first play of the game, QB Shane Buechele was sacked right at the goal line, and the Maryland fans were almost sure it was a safety. After a two yard run by RB Kyle Porter, the Buechele threw an interception on 3rd and 17, right into the hands of Maryland DB JC Jackson. On Maryland’s next possession, QB Tyrrell Pigrome had 25 yard carry into the end zone, tying the game at 7.
The Longhorn offense had a much better showing in their second debut, marching down the field 55 yards in 11 plays, leading to a 42 yard FG attempt by the new transfer kicker, Joshua Rowland. Rowland’s first attempt as a Longhorn looked good all the way, until the Southeast breeze seemed to move it just a tad left at the end. The Longhorns had nothing to show for their first long drive of the season.
Just after the Texas defense had a great showing to begin the game, a missed tackle by LB Malik Jefferson led to a 50 yard gain for the Maryland offense, and the Terps would score two plays later on a Pigrome connection to D.J. Moore. This quick series late into the first quarter was the deterioration of a Longhorn defense that would not able to stop a simple run first offense.
Again, the Buechele and his receivers responded well, going 51 yards down the field into the middle of the second quarter, and setting up K Joshua Rowland for a 44 yard field goal attempt. A slow snap by Longhorn DS Kaleb Smith allowed the Terps to block the kick, and Antoine Brooks took it to the house, giving Maryland a 21-7 lead. A three and out possession by Texas was followed by a 46 yard touchdown connection between Pigrome and Taivon Jacobs. Maryland would fail on the two point conversion.
On the Terp’s kickoff, a miscommunication between Longhorns Malcolm Roach and Devin Duvernay led to a fumble that was recovered by the Terrapins at Texas’ own 20 yard line. The Horns’ defense forced a 30 yard FG attempt for Maryland K Adam Green. Longhorn senior DL Poona Ford left his only memorable mark on the game when he blocked the kick, and Holton Hill took the ball all the way to the South end zone for his, and the horn’s, second touchdown of the game, and neither had been scored by the offense. Hillarious, but most likely unrealistic chants of “Holton for Heisman” were said by the Texas student section. Maryland responded quickly, taking the ball into the redzone, but had to end settling for a field goal, making the score 30-14 late in the first half. Texas had success pushing the ball down field, but turned the ball over on downs, which led to the end of the first half.
Texas’ opening possession of the second half was sparked by Buechele completions over 10 yards to Collin Johnson, Jerrod Heard, and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps. RB Chris Warren’s 15 yard carry to Maryland’s 7 yard line put the horns in what seemed to be certain scoring position, but Texas’ play calling had other ideas. On 1st and 2nd down, Warren carried the ball a total of three yards. In goal line positions last year, the Longhorns had success throwing fade routes to the 6’6” then freshman WR Collin Johnson, who was not to bee seen on the turf once the Horns entered the red zone this possession. On 3rd down a screen pass to TE Garrett Gray seemed promising, but two missed blocks by longhorns led to a loss of a yard. Herman decided to go for it on 4th down, but Chris Warren dropped Buechele’s pass just in front of the end zone, leading to another turnover on downs for Texas.
The Longhorns’ defense forced a three and out series, and the Terp’s punt only went 25 yards, giving Texas starting field position in Maryland territory. After a holding penalty and incomplete passes, the offense was faced with 3rd and 20, but senior WR Armanti Foreman came onto the field, and the most knowledgeable Longhorn supporters knew where Buechele was going, and they were right. A 33 yard touchdown for Foreman put the Horns within 10 after the two-point conversion pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey was dropped in the back of the end zone.
A short offensive possession by Maryland led to a punt fielded by redshirt freshman Reggie Hemphill-Mapps at his own 9 yard line. Reggie juked one tackler, moving to the right sideline, and took it to the South end zone, for another non-offensive Longhorn touchdown. The excitement for the Horns would not last long because the Terp’s returned the kickoff 65 yards to the Texas 38 yard line. On 2nd down, both Longhorns’ LB Naashon Hughes and Malik Jefferson missed tackles and looked slow as Maryland RB Ty Johnson took it to the end zone for a 40 yard touchdown. A 9 play drive by the Horns was capped off by Buechele’s 3 yard touchdown run after putting on a strong display of passing late in the 3rd quarter.
To start off the 4th quarter, Maryland missed a 50 yard FG attempt way left, giving the Longhorns’ fans plenty of hope with 13 minutes left to play and only being down 37-34. At the Maryland 44 yard line, the Texas offense was left in no-man’s land on 4th and 2. Coach Herman decided to go for it, but Buechele couldn’t spot an open receiver, and was sacked by Tyran Hunt. The Terrapin offense seemed to tire out the Longhorns’ linemen and linebackers, as it seemed like Holton Hill, Deshon Elliott, and Kris Boyd, all members of the secondary, were making all the tackles. Maryland scored a touchdown on a 7 play drive, and led 44-34 with 7:34 left to play in Austin.
On Texas’ very important next possession, Buechele threw 3 incomplete passes, and the Horn’s had to punt the ball away after a terrible series in a critical situation. The Texas defense was aided by a Maryland holding penalty, and forced punt, giving Texas the ball back with 5 minutes left to play. The Longhorns needed to score 10 points quickly, but a holding penalty called on Preseason All-American OL Connor Williams on 2nd down put the Longhorns in a do or die 4th and 14 situation. Buechele passed the ball to John Burt, who was able to get pass the first down marker plus 10 yards, only to have the play called back because of another holding call on Williams. Texas would then turn the ball over on downs, once again, and the Longhorn fan base left the stands knowing there was no way that their team could come back. Maryland would beat Texas 51-41.
There were a few pleasant surprises that the Longhorns should see as positives moving forward into the season. Redshirt freshman Reggie Hemphill-Mapps played an outstanding game as a utility player, both a WR and returning punts. He propved his ability to dodge tacklers and take his speed to another gear. The Texas defensive secondary made only one notable mistake when Kris Boyd got lost his receiver on a Maryland touchdown in the first half. The entire secondary was able to get in on tackles, and made necessary open field tackles, as well. And of course, Texas punter Michael Dickson continues to prove that he is the best in college football. He only punted twice, but there was a 65 yard bomb, and a 55 yard punt with a certain spin to try to get the Maryland return man to muff the punt late in the game.
The Longhorns’ offensive line, led by junior Preseason All-American Connor Williams was disappointing. Buechele felt more pressure throughout the game than he should have from the Terrapin defense, and was not able to scramble to well to get away from it. Williams’ two holding penalties late in the game are unacceptable from such a highly praised player. Buechele did not play terribly, but his eyes would become fixed on one player on some plays, ignoring a few open receivers throughout the game. The biggest problem for the Horns’ was clearly on the defensive side of the ball. Linebackers missed open field tackles, and besides Charles Omenihu, the linemen were very quiet in their efforts to get to the Maryland QBs. There was a notable change in play calling with the new coaching staff. Very few appearances were made by Texas’ common blitzing crew of John Bonney and Breckyn Hager, so the linebacker seemed to just be standing around more than they should, waiting for action to come to them. And in goal to go situations, fade routes were out the door, and screen passes and rushing plays seemed to be the plays of choice. Collin Johnson can grab fade thrown in his vicinity, so I can’t imagine Tom Herman not utilizing his height later in the season.
Texas fans seemed to be disappointed in Tom Herman’s first game as the Head Coach because of the trash that was being thrown on the field late in the game once the Horns were out of winning contention. The team had its bright sides, but there were some clear problems that could easily be adjusted by film sessions within the coming days. Hopefully the Longhorns can take care of business at home against San Jose State next Saturday, before heading to the Los Angeles Coliseum to face USC, in their first meeting since January 4, 2006 at the Rose Bowl.