All love along Horns’ O-Line
By Habeab Kurdi
It may be cheesy, but hey, the Longhorns reside in Austin, so bring on the queso.
Texas’ love for each other is spilling onto the field and into their love of the fourth quarter. The surging offensive line exemplifies the intertwined culture permeating the Texas football team on this run back to the Top 10.
The Horns talked about finishing to anyone who would listen, from the start of the preseason on through Oklahoma, and the Texas offense finished the fourth quarter imposing its will to end the game for a second-straight week.
Love is all they needed, according to senior right guard Elijah Rodriguez, to win last weekend against rival Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown, and on through the rest of the year.
“I’ve learned that we all love each other a whole lot and that the love is real,” Rodriguez said. “I learned we’ve been training for the fourth quarter all year long. And we are a fourth quarter team, that’s the quarter that we thrive in.” [place_ad_1]
Love In Queso Emergency
Back bolstering the action in the middle, junior center Zach Shackelford is more than happy being cheesy when it comes to the strength forged on the O-line.
“I do, I genuinely love those guys as brothers, as teammates, I’d do anything for them,” said Shackelford, who is back to full health after missing time with injury. “When I see the whole line, after the game wearing the ‘Golden Hat,’ it gives me such great joy because I feel like I was a part of that and I could get us all on the same page and stuff like that.
“Not necessarily for me but for the guys in that room I just care so much about.”
Westlake alums Sam Ehlinger and Breckyn Hager had a bit to do with the newest member of the offensive line, Calvin Anderson, coming on board. Anderson, a senior, transferred from Rice to be a part of “something special” that he could see happening on the Forty Acres.
“I’m very thankful to be part of a culture like that,” said the left tackle Anderson. “I saw Sam — a young QB with fire in his eyes that wanted to do something special, doing something special for his family, doing something special for this university. He loves Texas. The fire in their eyes I saw was ‘be a part of this something special here.’”
Blocking with a purpose all over the field, the Texas wide receiver feel the love the same way the whole team has taken notice.
Johnson passionately described the sidelines and the feel of the team following the win. The feeling is Texas can win against the Sooners Saturday because of their kinship.
“These group of guys — I wouldn’t rather be on the field with any other group of guys,” Johnson said. “We’re just so tight and, the defense believes in offense, offense believes in the defense, no matter what adversity we’re going against.”
Nasty Harmony In-Tune
As a lead nearly evaporated in the second half against Kansas State, and then Oklahoma, there was no panic by the Longhorns. The offense promptly finished off a nearly six-and-a-half minute drive to close out the game against the Wildcats, then pushed forward to finish off Oklahoma by putting freshman Cameron Dicker in position to boot through the game-winning field goal.
“I’ve learned that guys — like I said before, because they love each other so much — they’re gonna work extremely hard for the love of their brothers,” Rodriguez said. [place_ad_1]
That’s not just player speak, either. Look at the Longhorns locker room celebrations after wins. See the way they talk about each other in stories and on social media. They are locked-in to the belief that a buy-in on loving one another will take them to the top.
“At the end of the day did you do enough for your brother next to you? That's the mentality that we have,” senior left guard Patrick Vahe said. “Winning is tough, winning consecutively is really tough. (We’re) making sure our guys stay humble on the field, knowing what we gotta do.”
For a bunch that was recently labeled nasty (in a good way) — a name they embrace fully — seeing them talk lovey-dovey seems a bit offline, but for this offensive line, it’s in line with the way you build strength, unity and ultimately, succeed.
“It’s satisfying when can you do your job and and let the skinny guys run around and make plays,” Shackelford said lovingly about the Texas receivers and running backs. “It’s because we care for each other so much and we’re so invested and we have a bunch of guys that are on the same page and are very much in tune with what the overall goal is.”
Gotta Hand It To Coach
The transition to being a dominant offensive line, including immersing freshman Samuel Cosmi in at starting right tackle, was epitomized on a huge third-down receiver screen to Lil'Jordan Humphrey which saw the lineman run to the edge to block in a play that wasn't designed for them to even be involved in, all to get a crucial first down against OU.
"I have to give credit to a lot of the other guys on the offensive line for this, but that play is exactly who we are," Anderson said. "When you see the guys run out, it's not even a play we’re supposed be a part of...Guys are just gonna do whatever they can, whatever is in their ability to make a play happen."
Sitting in the Top 10 once again, Texas is embracing the love because of the coaches consistent message from the get-go, namely co-Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Herb Hand and head coach Tom Herman.
“We’ve been working on it over the offseason, speaking positivity, it all starts from the leadership of our organization, the coaches and coach Herman — he’s really taken a positive approach this season,” Rodriguez said. “He always tells us our best is good enough. If we just play our best, we’ll win games, and that’s really trickled down into the culture of us loving each other, it’s just constantly encouraging one another.”
Hand’s enthusiasm and demeanor is evident in the way his line is playing together through thick and thin this season.
“(Coach Hand) tried to tackle me one time during the USC game, after we scored because he was so excited,” laughed Vahe. “That’s just something he’s really passionate about, and that’s something I love about coach Hand.” [place_ad_1]
The veteran newbie Anderson just smiled trying to describe what he’s experienced absorbing the elements of Texas’ culture this season.
“That feeling is kind of indescribable, but it’s what breeds seasons like this,” he said. “We’re gonna continue to let that culture permeate.”
Added Vahe, “(I’ve had) a lot more fun so far this season than I have playing football my whole career.”