Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson (46) sacks Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during the first half at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. Texas won, 24-17. (Brandon Wade/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

Football

Texas vs. Kansas: Four questions facing the Longhorns

Posted November 6th, 2015

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Four questions facing Texas against Kansas:

1. Will Jerrod Heard finally throw for 100 yards?

His sub-100 streak reached four games at Iowa State, where Heard managed a measly 26 yards through the air before getting benched in the fourth quarter. And if Heard couldn’t get right against the Cyclones, who were ranked No. 114 nationally against the pass, who can he get right against? Maybe Kansas, which is second-to-last nationally at 334.5 passing yards allowed per game. Heard struggles with intermediary throws, but lately he hasn’t hit on, or even attempted, many deep balls, either. He is expected to start, though his hold on the position has weakened.

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Texas's DeAndre McNeal breaks out of the Oklahoma State defense during the first half at Royal Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 26, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas’s DeAndre McNeal breaks out of the Oklahoma State defense during the first half at Royal Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 26, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

2. Which freshmen will play more?

Play-callers Jay Norvell and Vance Bedford each said this week they’d like to play more freshmen. For Norvell, that could mean rolling out receivers DeAndre McNeal and Ryan Newsome, or maybe running back Kirk Johnson, who has played only on special teams since his redshirt was removed in the Oklahoma game. Defensively, Bedford will welcome back linebacker Breckyn Hager, who has been out since the end of the TCU game. Thus far, safeties P.J. Locke and DeSean Elliott have been unable to take reps away from starters Dylan Haines and Jason Hall, but that could change. With the season circling the drain, it might be time to see what the rookies can do.

3. How many sacks will Texas record?

The defense has been on a tear lately, registering 17 sacks in the past three games, including six apiece against Iowa State and Oklahoma. Pressure is the new identity for Bedford’s unit, and that pressure only intensifies against novice quarterbacks. Last week, it was Iowa State’s Joel Lanning, making his first start. This week’s fresh meat is Ryan Willis, who will make his fifth start. Texas’ 24 sacks rank third in the Big 12; KU has surrendered 22 sacks.

4. Will the Longhorns score first?

History suggests that they had better. Under Charlie Strong, Texas is 9-1 when it takes the lead first. The exception: Last year against Oklahoma, when Nick Rose hit an early field goal to go up 3-0. Conversely, Texas is winless in the 11 games its opponent scored first. So there are two patterns here — one encouraging, one disturbing. Whoever wins the coin flip should take the ball and pull out all stops to get on the scoreboard.

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