Tom Herman Offers Some Perspective on USC Loss

Tom Herman Offers Some Perspective on USC Loss

“There are no moral victories” is an adage as old as time itself. But how true is the stale bromide? Did Davy Crockett die in vain defending the Alamo? Did John McEnroe losing one of the greatest men’s tennis matches of all time to Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon in 1980 mean anything other than £10,000 less in prize money for the fiery American star? Would Rocky 2 exist if our hero had defeated Apollo Creed in the first titular film? Rocky 2 led to Rocky 3, which, of course, led to Rocky 4, the only moving picture to stave off nuclear holocaust, probably.

After Texas dropped a heartbreaker to USC in Los Angeles on Saturday night, Longhorn head coach Tom Herman uttered these five words. It wasn’t a surprise, coming from the man who has repeatedly positioned losing as a painful, agonizing, unacceptable concept in his universe. Speaking to the media at his regularly scheduled Monday afternoon presser, he again strolled down this familiar avenue of thinking.

“We lost a football game that was winnable,” Herman said. “If we feel there’s complacency about losing … that will never be the case here under our watch.”

But then he shifted the conversation squarely into, if not moral victory territory, at least something approximating character building in the face of losing.

Herman said that the 51-41 loss to Maryland to open the season was “a big wakeup call” to the team. The Longhorns destroyed San Jose State the following week, and led against No. 4 USC with mere seconds remaining in the game, losing in double overtime, no small feat.

“You never want to lose, ever,” Herman said. “For the future of this program, our two losses might be some huge lessons.”

Mid-conference, Herman looked out across the rows of travel-weary beat writers and bloggers asking serious questions about scheme and the tough schedule ahead and wondered aloud.

“Some of you guys look like you’ve got PTSD or something,” he said, smiling.

The first-year Texas coach got big laughs, but his joke had other implications, mainly that this season isn’t a lost cause despite a 1-2 start. Texas, especially the defense, hung around with one of the best teams in America on the road with a true freshman quarterback after losing one of the most talented left tackles in the country to injury. Even if no one wants to call it a moral victory—because mere adoption of the concept suggests a satisfaction with losing—the world isn’t ending for the Longhorns.

Other tidbits from the press conference:

  • Herman admitted to two “primal screams” (and no tears) after dropping what would have been his first signature win at Texas, one in the shower after the game, and one after arriving back in Austin.
  • When Shane Buechele is at 100 percent, he will start. Sam Ehlinger will still get some reps with the first team, however.
  • Herman says that Armanti Foreman, leading Texas wide receivers with three touchdowns on the season, started off as third on the depth chart, because “he was a really bad practice player.” Foreman has since bought into the idea of great practices, and thus, into the good graces of his head coach.
  • Many fans and media members alike were dismayed with Chris Warren’s four carries against USC, and the larger overall lack of a power running game. Herman responded by mentioning Warren’s 3.8 yards per carry average during the game, and that fixing a running game mid-game isn’t exactly easy. All told, Texas RBs Warren and Kyle Porter only saw nine total carries, something Herman said he wasn’t satisfied with.
  • That pink gum you see Herman snapping on the sidelines at least half a dozen times each game? That’s sugar-free Dubble Bubble. He keeps seven individually wrapped pieces in his pocket for each half.

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