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Longhorns Notebook: Hager apologizes for latest misstep

John Rivera/Icon Sportswire

Texas sophomore linebacker/defensive end Breckyn Hager has been making regular appearances at the team’s Monday news conferences. Perhaps it’s time for the young man and the school’s media relations professionals to rethink that strategy.

Hager, with his flowing blonde hair and laid-back attitude, gives off a surfer dude, let’s order pizza and party vibe.

Earlier this season he issued an apology after leaving the field in Stillwater while the rest of the team stayed for the “Eyes of Texas.” This time, it wasn’t Hager’s actions but his words that got him into trouble.

Asked what the Longhorns’ defensive strategy would be against Texas Tech junior quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Hager said three times that UT defenders want to “injure that quarterback.” Hager noted that Mahomes has been playing the last three games with a sprained (right) throwing shoulder.

Mahomes’ father quickly pointed out how wrong Hager’s comment was.

Two weeks ago before playing Kansas State, Hager said the defense’s mindset was to “kill everything.” That’s probably a poor choice of words but talking about injuring an opponent crosses the line. Plus, two years ago in Lubbock, UT defensive back Quandre Diggs knocked Mahomes out of the game with a vicious hit.

News of Hager’s comments spread quickly and Texas went into damage control mode. The school issued a statement from Hager.

“I want to apologize for what I said earlier today at our press conference,” Hager said in the statement. “I play hard and it’s our team’s goal to get pressure on the quarterback, hit him and disrupt the offense. When I go out there I want to play my most aggressive game, but I’m not trying to do anything to physically injure someone. I have too much respect for Patrick Mahomes and every quarterback I play against to ever do that.

“That’s not what I’m about, not the way I was raised and not the way we play football at Texas. Our coaches don’t teach us that or coach us to injure other players in any way. It was a really poor choice of words, and I truly regret it.”

Texas also issued a statement from coach Charlie Strong:

“I know Breckyn regrets what he said earlier, and we just had a long talk about it. I want to make one thing clear – we never walk into a game wanting to injure someone. We would never coach that way and that’s not how our team plays. We respect the game too much, we respect other players, we respect how hard they’ve worked to get in the position they’re in, so that’s not our character.”

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday that Mahomes’ shoulder has improved and the quarterback should be a full go for practices this week. Mahomes took a scary spill at the end of Saturday’s double-overtime victory at TCU but did not re-injure his shoulder.

Two weeks after Texas Tech fans went full-geek mode for the Oklahoma game and the return of former quarterback Baker Mayfield, they’ll have another reason to vocally take out their angst on the Longhorns.

“Being an Oklahoma kid, (I) definitely didn’t like Texas at all,” Texas Tech wide receiver Cameron Batson said Monday. “You come here, (Texas Tech fans) don’t like Texas either, so it’s a win-win situation.”

Short horns

  • Texas sophomore left tackle Connor Williams was wearing a protective boot on his right foot Monday. He suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter of the Baylor game. Williams has started seven games and is expected to be available for Saturday’s game at Texas Tech.
  • Junior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe had a career-best 63-yard reception that was a key play in the Longhorns’ fourth-quarter rally to beat Baylor. But he’ll miss the Texas Tech game after suffering an injured shoulder when he was tackled on the play. A team spokesman said Joe will continue to be evaluated but there’s a report that he suffered a fractured shoulder. Joe missed the first four games with a hamstring injury.
  • Texas recorded 548 yards of offense against Baylor. The Longhorns have had five games of 500 or more yards in total offense. The school single-season record is six, accomplished both in 2005 and 2009.
  • With Saturday’s upset of Baylor, Texas has a four-game winning streak against Associated Press teams ranked No. 12 or higher. It’s the second-longest streak behind Alabama.

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