A little Texas win.
And a whole lot of healthy perspective.
Four-touchdown favorite Texas beat the worst team in the league and maybe the entire land, and yes it beat ’em up pretty good. As the Longhorns should have. And that’s all they did.
That said, however, the befuddling Longhorns who beat 10th-ranked Oklahoma led Kansas only 24-14 late in the first half. And the Jayhawks were twice perched on the Texas goal-line, ready to score and make Charlie Strong really sweat, even on a chilly Saturday night.
But thanks to a goal-line stand led by Jason Hall and Tim Cole and a Jayhawks field-goal try that clanked off the right upright, they gave Kansas zero points out of those two threats and then squelched the visitors most of the rest of the evening.
Texas (4-5, 3-3) got a victory. An expected victory. A ho-hum, no one-else-will-notice victory.
That’s all that Longhorn Nation can really take from the 59-20 rout of winless, hopeless, everything-less Kansas.
Hereafter, 0-9 Kansas inevitably looks to basketball season, and Texas looks ahead to, well, still a daunting task. With the routine victory despite a nervous first half, Texas needs just two more wins over Kansas to become bowl-eligible. Unfortunately, the Big 12 does not offer double round-robin play, so the Longhorns will have to beat someone else — actually two someone elses, like West Virginia on the road next week and Texas Tech on Thanksgiving night before the nightmarish matchup at Baylor — to qualify for a post-season extravaganza like the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, which you have to admit sounds more like a non-profit charity organization.
Of course, Texas could use a little charity itself because more often than not, it does itself no favors.
It did on this night, when the Longhorns benefited from bungled field goals and bad defense but also got five touchdowns from its backup quarterback, one on the advance of a fumble recovery, and a smidgen shy of 600 total yards. They basically had their way with a Kansas team that has lost its way.
On a night when the school paid tribute to a new movie called “My All American,” the story of the fateful season of heroic Longhorns defensive back Freddie Steinmark on the 1969 national championship team, the current Texas players wore throwback uniforms without names on the backs of their jerseys.
That seemed a bit ironic since Texas doesn’t have a legitimate All-American on its current roster, has had its issues throwing anything forward, and is as far from winning a national title as it can get with only 10 wins in its last 22 games over the past two seasons.
National championship? Let’s start with a bowl game.
The smart players know that.
“Egos have definitely got to go,” said savvy senior cornerback Duke Thomas, who obliged Strong’s request to wear Steinmark’s No. 28 jersey against Kansas. “We’re not in any position to have any egos. We have no big names on this team.”
Rather, they’re trying to earn the trust of their fans and those same players who wore those nameless jerseys decades ago. Running back D’Onta Foreman, who broke off a 93-yarder for the third-longest run in school history and had 157 yards, “pulled up my socks” to mimic those players in the ’60s. Now the Horns need to pull themselves up.
As Thomas hinted, Texas has to act as if it accomplished nothing Saturday. Or close to it. Strong even advised writers to keep penning that hope is lost because “every time we get built up, we crash and burn.”
A week after the Longhorns were skunked by Iowa State and couldn’t produce a single point out of their 54 plays, they scored on their very first snap. On a long bomb, of all things, which came as a shock since Texas starting quarterback Jerrod Heard had gone four consecutive games without topping 100 yards through the air. He got 84 of them on his opening play, a rocket to freshman John Burt for a quick 7-0 lead, and the scoring deluge was on.
So offense is more than just a concept.
It’s been a stressful year, and this game had a sandlot feel to it for a Texas team that seems to torment its own fans as well as its coaches with its start-stop momentum swings back and forth. It’s got some talent, but isn’t blessed with much experience, and it’s a team that’s shown it can play with the best of them (OU) as well as down to the level of the worst of them (3-6 Iowa State).
Strong completely gets it. His body language and subdued tone said everything.
Asked if he’s worried that his team might get too exuberant over a win against an overmatched opponent, Strong shook his head and said firmly, “They won’t get overly excited. I told the team before the game that we have to go out and dominate this team. Now we’re going into a tough environment (at Morgantown), and it’s going to be critical for us.”
Every game, every play is critical at this juncture. When you’ve already lost five games, there’s no margin for error. There’s also not much room for glory.
As play-caller Jay Norvell said, “We have to keep our thumbs on these guys. Their attention seems to drift at times. We’ve been very frustrated with this group as we try to get them to play up to their potential. But we have capable kids who are capable of playing like they did tonight.”
Next week will bring another night and another test, but the names on the opposing jersey will belong to West Virginia, not Kansas.