As we head into the Big 12 home opener for Kansas State, we finally get back into the swing of the Q&A thing. To kick us off, we welcome in Gerald Goodridge from Burnt Orange Nation, one of the two Texas blogs in the SBNation universe, to answer a few questions about Texas football.
We also returned the favor and answered a few questions for them about K-State, so be sure and head over and check that out when you’re done.
JT - The Texas Longhorns did not start the season out well, losing to Maryland and sweating out a home victory over Tulsa. But the last two games have seen significant change. What’s the big difference between the two pairs of games?
GG - When you look at the difference between the three wins and one loss, Texas has done a great job of holding onto the ball and keeping the defense fresh. In the loss against Maryland, the Texas defense spent 32:46 (55%) of the game chasing down jet sweeps and motions and looked gassed late. In the three wins, Texas has held the ball on average for 9:03 more than their opponents. Playing into that is the fact that Texas turned the ball over three times against Maryland (the Terrapins kept a clean sheet there), while the Longhorns have been even or positive in the turnover ratio in all three wins.
JT - The Red River
Shootout Rivalry is next week. Any chance the Longhorns get caught looking ahead?
GG - I would be surprised if Texas was looking ahead this week. The mantra since Tom Herman arrived was to go 1-0 every week, and while that may not have worked out a year ago, you’re seeing the fruits of that focus this season. You’ve seen them bounce back from two less-than-stellar performances and put together two of their most-complete games of the season. Many of the senior leaders on this team came to Texas under Charlie Strong so they could help bring the program back to national prominence, and they’re seeing the fruits of that this year. Snapping a 16-year losing streak would go a long way to doing that.
JT - Tom Herman is now in his second season in Austin. What’s the biggest impact he has had since he “came home”? Do you think he’s got what it takes to stay, and be successful, long-term in Austin?
GG - It’s tough for me to judge Tom Herman because we are only 16 games into his tenure, and two weeks ago I felt like this program hadn’t progressed at all under Herman. I think the next two weeks are paramount to getting a feel of the direction. If this team proves its mental toughness to go and play well in one of the toughest places to play in the conference, then plays a good game against the Oklahoma Sooners , then we’ll know where they’re headed.
JT - Texas has never had trouble finding top-end athletes. But who has stood out so far this year for the Longhorns? And how do you think those impact players will fare this Saturday against K-State?
GG - It’s hard not to say Caden Sterns. He’s shown very quickly why he was the No. 1 rated player in the state of Texas and the top safety in the country. He’s playing center field at the safety position better than I’ve seen since Earl Thomas was in Austin. He’s been great in run support, and shows incredible instincts when balls are coming over the middle. I’m honestly not sure how the young impact players will fare on Saturday in Manhattan, but again I think there are enough juniors and seniors on the team that feel like the direction of the program at the end of this year will be their legacy, so I think they’ll be able to help some of the young impact players keep their heads on straight.
JT - Here’s the return question: Why do you think Texas has struggled so much against K-State, and both Kansas teams in general?
GG - Texas’s struggles against Kansas State are really an anomaly to me. I was in school during the Ron Prince years, and I still shudder a bit when I see bald men with goatees. I think some of it has been looking past Kansas State - the games in 2006 and 2007 were the weeks before OU and Texas A&M respectively. And there definitely are some years in there - toward the end of Mack Browns’s tenure and during Charlie Strong’s - where K-State was good and Texas was bad. It seems like there’s just always this convergence of random variables that come to a head in this game. Kansas I have no stinking clue. I think the loss that became 1,000 memes was simply a group of players trying to play too hard to save their coach’s job. Outside of that, your guess is as good as mine.
JT - Prediction for the game, and the keys to victory for the Longhorns?
GG - I expect a relatively low-scoring affair, with Texas coming out on top 28-21. The key to the game for Texas is somehow finding a way to win the time of possession and turnover battle against a Bill Snyder coached team.