BEVO BEAT

Texas 42, Kansas 27: Seniors stepping up as Longhorns move closer to bowl eligibility

Posted November 11th, 2017

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Texas senior Antwaun Davis has the All-American résumé that voters love. Just not All-American statistics.

The fifth-year senior from Bastrop started playing football at age 7. He’s active in community service, volunteered with the Special Olympics and once competed in an art contest. Davis worked overtime last spring and summer to earn his UT degree in applied learning and development.

Asked about his toughest course, Davis said, “Government.”

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What did you learn? “Nothing,” he said. “I still don’t know.”

Not many of us do anymore, that’s for sure. But in his 41st career game at Texas, Davis sure knew what to do once he got the football. He returned his first career interception 16 yards for a touchdown to help Texas knock off Kansas 42-27 on Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Texas defensive back Antwuan Davis (7) celebrates an interception and touchdown against Kansas with defensive back Kris Boyd (2) in the first half of a Big 12 Conference football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

It was an all-world first half for the 6-1, 200-pounder. With about 8 minutes left in the second quarter, Davis pounced on a fumbled punt. The Longhorns cashed in moments later to take an 18-point lead. And if that wasn’t enough, Davis closed out the first half with another interception in the end zone as Kansas faced third-and-goal from the Texas 4.

“We have a tier of hands and catching ability,” safety DeShon Elliott about Davis’ pick-six. “Antwuan was on the third tier. But with that one, he moves past everybody except me. So, he’s second going to the first.”

Individual plays will be all that anyone remembers from this matchup. Only the coaches should subject themselves to watching this again. Alas, the Longhorns (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) moved one step closer to bowl eligibility while the Jayhawks (1-9, 0-7) continued their annual spiral into oblivion.

Texas came in as 33-point favorites, a clear sign someone in the desert hasn’t watched this offense. “I don’t ever know what favorite we are,” UT coach Tom Herman said. “That’s a lot, though.”

Herman has talked repeatedly in recent weeks about the importance of getting UT’s seniors to a bowl game. He’s basically co-opted the same talking point from his predecessor the last two Novembers. But on this night, seniors were everywhere.

Davis easily had the biggest night of his career. Meanwhile, safety Jason Hall flashed his old wrecking-crew charm with six tackles, a sack and one tackle for loss and a 25-yard interception return to the Kansas 9. Defensive tackle Poona Ford also had two tackles for loss.

Offensively, Lorenzo Joe caught a 49-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Kansas opened with a surprise onside kick, but UT’s John Burt smothered it with ease. Then quarterback Shane Buechele reared back and fired deep for Joe, who had no trouble reeling it in.

Texas wide receiver Lorenzo Joe (14) scores on the first play from scrimmage against Kansas on Saturday. Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman

Last season, Texas scored on the game’s first play from scrimmage, too. The Longhorns needed 11 seconds to take a 7-0 lead in 2016. This year, they needed only nine.

“We’ve been working on that throw all season,” said Joe, who logged his 42nd career game. “It’s been overthrown, underthrown, called for (pass interference) and stuff like that. Shane threw a great ball today and it fell in my hands and I fell into the end zone. It felt good to get in there.”

The Jayhawks were the ones crowing about last year’s miraculous comeback, one fueled by six Longhorns turnovers. This time around, Texas had only two — Kris Boyd’s fumble on a kick return early and a Buechele interception late.

Texas rang up 28 points in the first quarter on just 135 total yards. Joe’s touchdown catch, Davis’ interception return and Toniel Carter’s 23-yard run all were explosive plays. Sam Ehlinger checked into the game late in the first quarter and quickly found his buddy Cade Brewer all alone for an 8-yard score.

Ehlinger wouldn’t see the field again until mop-up time. Asked why Ehlinger didn’t play more, Herman said it was unfair to play him a lot given that he’s missed two games with a concussion.

“We wanted to see how he would respond and thought he did well,” Herman said. “Tonight, it would have taken some kind of disaster for us to make a switch at that point.”

Lil’Jordan Humphrey scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter to give the Horns a 35-17 cushion. This might be something worth sticking with going forward. The Lil’Wildcat, perhaps?

The second half was a mind-numbing blur, 30 minutes that dragged on and on due to countless stoppages for instant replay reviews and whatnot. Kansas did get a 32-yard field goal with 5:11 remaining. UT linebacker Malik Jefferson had a terrific stop as Kansas faced fourth-and-2 from the Texas 29.

The Horns worked on the clock with a 12-play drive that chewed up 5:02 and ended with Chris Warren III’s 1-yard plunge up the middle. That play needed a lengthy review even though it was obvious he was stretched all the way to Lady Bird Lake.

Herman was subdued afterward, and none of the players acted like world-beaters. This was Kansas. Texas did what it was supposed to do.

“Winning’s hard no matter who you’re playing,” Buechele said. “We’re just excited to come get a win here and go to West Virginia and go try to get a win out there.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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