Hiring Tom Herman brought excitement back to Texas football, and the first few minutes of his first Longhorns game as head coach continued that trend. On the third play of the game, Holton Hill intercepted a pass and returned it 31 yards for a Texas touchdown, giving it an early reason to celebrate.
Pick 6 on the third play of the game? Sure.- FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 2, 2017
What a way to start the Tom Herman era. https://t.co/hiIfPM6rNB
It proved to be the high point of the afternoon for the Longhorns. A few hours after the stellar start, some fans in the crowd were throwing things onto the field in disgust.
Texas fans are so pissed, they are throwing their hand fans on the field pic.twitter.com/SDsZZ7Xwgc- Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) September 2, 2017
The No. 23 Longhorns lost to Maryland at home 51-41 in Herman's debut on Saturday afternoon, in a mistake-filled game that featured plenty of questionable decision-making, particularly on fourth downs, and bizarre special teams plays.
After the initial Texas touchdown, Maryland took control with 27 straight points : a 25-yard run by Tyrrell Pigrome, a 20-yard pass from Pigrome to D.J. Moore, a 71-yard blocked field goal return by Antoine Brooks and a 46-yard Pigrome pass to Taivon Jacobs.
Down goes No. 23 Texas.- FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 2, 2017
Terps spoil Tom Herman's debut in Maryland's first win over a ranked opponent since 2010. pic.twitter.com/KQF17TLiXd
Hill got Texas back in the game with a 65-yard blocked field goal return of his own in the second quarter, but the Longhorns could never fully close the gap, as mistakes and big Maryland plays continued to doom them. For example: Texas had a 91-yard punt return TD in the third quarter … but it was answered by a 40-yard Ty Johnson TD for Maryland. So the game went for the Longhorns.
Crowd. Silenced. pic.twitter.com/DTcjTECFBy- FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 2, 2017
The key sequence of the second half happened early in the fourth quarter. Pigrome, the Terps' new starting quarterback, had gone out with an injury, and Texas was down by three with the ball at the Maryland 44-yard line. Rather than try to pin a backup QB deep, it chose to go for it on fourth-and-two. Shane Buechele was sacked. (Earlier in the game, the Longhorns had two strange play calls where they threw short of the end zone and turned the ball over on downs at the five.)
Freshman QB Kasim Hill came off the bench and led the Terrapins on a 52-yard drive featuring a 40-yard pass to Moore on third-and-19. Hill scored with 7:36 left to put Maryland up 10, and the Terps never looked back.
Texas had two turnovers, including a botched kick return that bounced off a player and was recovered by Maryland. It committed 11 penalties for 117 yards. It went 0-for-4 on fourth downs. Buechele passed for 375 yards, but the Longhorns managed only 98 yards on the ground. The defense that started so fast with that pick-six ended up allowing Maryland to average 8.3 yards per play despite playing with two inexperienced quarterbacks.
It's only Week 1. Last year, Texas' thrilling win over Notre Dame taught us to not overreact to opening games. There's talent on the Longhorns' roster, but Herman took over a program that has had three straight losing seasons and has finished in the top 25 once in the past seven years. Maryland is coming off a bowl season, too, and is clearly trending in the right direction under second-year coach D.J. Durkin, who just delivered one of the program's best wins in years.
Nevertheless, it couldn't help but be an all-around disheartening opener for Texas, which had hopes of a quick turnaround to at least be a top-25 team. The Longhorns were voted into the preseason AP poll despite recent struggles, but they'll immediately fall out.
The Herman era has only just begun, and the long-term outlook is positive For Texas fans, however, Saturday had an unfortunately familiar feeling to it. It was a result that made clear that shedding seven years of mediocrity is not something that will happen instantly.