Texas’ Herman, Baylor’s Rhule in similar post-AAC situations
WACO, Texas (AP) — The last two coaches to win American Athletic Conference championship are now in their first season trying to rebuild a pair of Big 12 programs.
Tom Herman and Matt Rhule are still in the early stages of their new jobs, and go head-to-head again when Texas (3-4, 2-2 Big 12) plays Saturday at Baylor (0-7, 0-4).
After winning their first two Big 12 Conference games under Herman, the Longhorns have lost their last two by a combined eight points. They lost in overtime at home last Saturday to No. 10 Oklahoma State when freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s pass was intercepted in the end zone.
“I don’t think confidence is going to waver anytime soon, because I think we realize just how close we really are,” Herman said.
Rhule and Baylor feel much the same way.
While the Bears are the only winless Power Five Conference team, they have been within a score of tying or taking the lead in the fourth quarter of six of their games. They trailed by 25 points in fourth quarter last week before freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer led a big comeback against No. 22 West Virginia, falling short 38-36 after a failed 2-point conversion try with 17 seconds left.
“It certainly hurts and it certainly aches, but there’s truth in everything, and I think they recognize just what they can do at times,” Rhule said of his Bears.
Herman and Rhule only met once in the AAC, with Herman’s Cougars beating Temple in the league’s 2015 championship game. The Owls then won the 2016 AAC title with a victory over Navy, only days before Rhule left after four seasons as their head coach for the Baylor job .
That was only a week after Herman, the former Ohio State offensive coordinator who won 22 games in two seasons at Houston, took over a Texas program coming off three consecutive losing seasons.
Now Herman and Rhule are in similar situations and in the same conference again
“You know it’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint, and I think Matt knows that,” Herman said. “He’s doing a good job. If you can say that your team is getting better every week, I think that’s a testament to good coach. And I think right now Matt can say that.”
Some other things to know when the Bears and Longhorns, Southwest Conference rivals before the Big 12, meet for the 107th time:
Ehlinger was not cleared to play after a week in concussion protocol after the Oklahoma State loss and won’t make the trip. Herman said Shane Buechele will be the starter against the Bears. Buechele won’t have regular center Zack Shackelford, who also in concussion protocol and wasn’t cleared to play.
While Brewer had the big push in the fourth quarter against West Virginia, Rhule said he doesn’t want to “have a quick trigger on our quarterback.” Rhule said Zach Smith will likely remain the starter against Texas even after Brewer’s gutty performance. Rhule said Smith went into the WVU game feeling sick and pressed a little too much, “and he didn’t have much help.” Both could play against Texas.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
After allowing 51 points to Maryland in the season opener, the Texas defense has allowed only 110 points in the last six games combined, including three overtime games. ... Baylor sophomore Connor Martin leads the Big 12 with 14 made field goals. ... The Bears have used 23 first-time starters, including 10 true freshmen. ... Texas has used 12 first-time starters.
ROUTINE, NOT LUCK
Herman showed up after the Oklahoma State game clean-shaven and without the goatee he had been sporting. The new look had nothing to do with consecutive losses.
“I have not shaved to change my luck. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in routine,” Herman said. “I actually was — it was a bad, bad day grooming, I guess, and I went too far. It was going to look bad if I tried to keep it. So I shaved it off and figured I’d let it grow back again.”
About 900 women who were Baylor freshmen from 1970-94 will get the opportunity to run onto the field as part of the Baylor Line before a game for the first time. The Baylor Line was founded in 1970 as a spirit organization for first-year male students, and didn’t become co-ed until about a quarter-century later.