Texas is back to not being back.
On Saturday, the Tom Herman era got off to a less than auspicious start as Texas fell to unranked Maryland at home in a high-scoring wild affair, 51-41. First impressions are not indicative of future results, but kicking off your excessively hyped coaching career with an upset isn’t exactly a good look.
In their season opener, there seemed to be little difference between the much-maligned Texas of the Charlie Strong era and the current team, one that Longhorns fans hoped would improve when they hired Herman, the best coach on the market. Instead, they threw trash at the field during the game.
The growing pains were as clear as they were messy. A field goal was missed, another was blocked and returned for a touchdown (Texas had one of those too), and a couple of fourth-down conversions went awry. They lost the turnover battle 2-1, surrendered over 100 penalty yards, and exhibited a leaky defense that could not stop Maryland from driving at will, even after their starting quarterback went down with an injury. A combination of their mistakes and Maryland’s surprisingly potent offense (482 yards) led to the surprising result.
Texas put up 473 total yards, but it was neither efficient nor run-dependent. The Longhorns’ ground game could be a problem moving forward for the team; they have to replace 2,000-yard runner D’Onta Foreman, who is now in the NFL. In this game, Texas could only muster 28 yards on the ground to Maryland’s 168 in the first half. The Longhorns finished with 98.
After going down 27-7 in the second quarter, the Longhorns kept themselves alive by finally making a red zone stop. They forced a field goal that they blocked and returned all the way back to a touchdown, a potential 14-point turnaround in the matter of one play.
In the second half, Texas seemed to turn the tide by evening things up with a punt return for a touchdown by Reggie Hemphill. The game quickly turned into a delightful back-and-forth affair. Maryland’s Ty Johnson answered with his own kickoff return into Texas territory, and then ripped off a 40-yard run to get the Maryland lead back up to 10. Quarterback Shane Buechele was OK when given time to throw, which wasn’t often, but he couldn’t convert when it counted late in the game, whether by his own mistake or by a penalty that brought back a successful play.
Early in the fourth quarter, Herman erred again, and went for it on fourth and 2. They were stopped at midfield and forced to turn it over. When Maryland began on their drive, true freshman quarterback Kasim Hill replaced Tyrell Pigrome after he went down with a leg injury. Hill burst onto the scene with a 40-yard pass, a huge 19-yard third-down completion, and a quarterback run into the end zone on a drive that put the Terps up 10 in the fourth quarter. Off the bench, Hill was electric, leading Maryland to close out the win largely cemented by their defense, who stopped Texas offense from getting into a rhythm. It was the perfect recipe for an upset.
Let’s make something clear: Maryland is not supposed to be very good this season. Preseason S&P+ projections predicted the Terps would go 4-8 this season and gave them only a 14 percent chance of winning this game—one in which they were nearly 18-point underdogs. This was supposed to be one of Texas’ more mediocre opponents, and they stumbled badly (albeit in the first week of the season). No. 4 USC looms in Week 3, and after getting carved by Maryland’s true freshman, Texas won’t find Sam Darnold to be an easier matchup.