Tom Herman came into the Kansas State game feeling the heat. After a disappointing loss last weekend in Austin to Iowa State, ending the Texas Longhorns‘ shot at a Big 12 title, the rumors about Herman’s future at Texas have only intensified. On Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas, the Longhorns were in the midst of easily their best offensive performance of the season, when 2020 hit with a vengeance and the Texas offense lost one of its veteran leaders to a gruesome injury.
Tom Herman and Texas Longhorns inconsistent in 2020
Senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger was the unquestioned field leader for Tom Herman and the Texas Longhorns coming into the 2020 season. Ehlinger and the Texas offense have had some highlight moments throughout the season, including their 69-point output in Manhattan against Kansas State. However, the Longhorns offense has struggled at some inopportune times with mental mistakes and turnovers.
The Texas defense has also been consistently inconsistent this season, surrendering 30 or more points to four out of the first five Big 12 opposing offenses. In the last five weeks, the Longhorn D has improved and given up 30 points just twice.
All of it combined has resulted in a 6-3 Texas team with one game remaining on the schedule.
Players opting out before season’s end
Following the Texas Longhorns’ 23-20 loss to Iowa State, ending any hopes for the Longhorns and a chance at a Big 12 Championship, starting offensive lineman Sam Cosmi announced he was opting out for the final two games of the season.
Cosmi’s move came as a surprise to many Longhorn fans. While it’s not uncommon for players to opt out after the regular season and before the bowl game, it’s not often players depart with multiple games remaining on the regular-season schedule.
Then it happened again. Veteran safety Caden Sterns announced he was also not playing in the final two games. Both top players departing sent a concerning message to Burnt Orange Nation and head coach Tom Herman. In the players’ eyes, team was now second in the list of priorities.
Offensive leader Derek Kerstetter suffers devastating injury
The absence of Sam Cosmi from the Texas Longhorns offense was not evident in Manhattan. Tom Herman’s offensive unit moved up and down the field at will through the air and on the ground, scoring 17 points in the first quarter. The second quarter was much the same. Then, it happened.
Veteran offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter, who had been considering whether or not to return for a fifth season under the COVID rules for college seniors, suffered an injury that evoked images of Washington quarterbacks Joe Theismann and Alex Smith, or more recently, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
The national television audience watching immediately knew the severity of the injury just by the awkward direction Kerstetter’s left leg bent and by the hushed words of the normally colorful commentator Gus Johnson.
“There’s an injured Longhorn on the field, Derek Kerstetter. And folks, it’s a very bad injury,” Johnson said softly. “We’re not going to show you the replay of this injury because of how nasty it looks.”
Fox later reported Kerstetter was headed to a local hospital in Kansas. That single play could have changed his decision on whether or not he returns for a fifth season in Austin. And as much as Longhorn fans might not like to admit it, that play and horrifying injury also justifies the decisions of Cosmi and Sterns opting out for the rest of the season. Could others now follow?