When the directive came down early in the day, Jerrod Heard and John Burt started scheming.
Texas, at last, was going deep.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you hadn’t noticed, the Longhorns haven’t been moving the ball much of late. So play-caller Jay Norvell got his guys together on Saturday and made them aware of his plans to test Kansas’ feeble secondary right off the bat, a departure from Texas’ recent fascination with short passes and dump offs.
“When we were told that, I went straight to my playbook with John and said this is the coverage we’re going to expect in this formation,” Heard said. “This is what you have to do to beat this corner.”
It resulted in an 84-yard strike leading to the first of eight touchdowns scored by Texas in a 59-20 thrashing of hapless Kansas.
Burt beat the coverage and Heard launched a dandy, culminating in the ultimate “take that” moment for an offense that had been under siege by media and by fans for its passing passivity.
“When we’ve played aggressively, we’ve had success all year long,” Norvell said.
After Lorenzo Joe’s 37-yard catch on the next drive, Heard had already exceeded 100 yards passing for the first time in five games, needing just two completions to do it.
Norvell had gotten testy last week when it was suggested at his Tuesday press conference that the offense didn’t throw deep in a 24-0 loss to Iowa State. He contended that plays were called for Heard to let it rip, but it didn’t happen for whatever reason. The week before, steady rain limited the aerial attack against Kansas State. Against Oklahoma, Norvell didn’t want to pass the ball, believing the key to victory was the 300-plus yards accumulated by the rushing attack.
Yet against winless Kansas, owner of the nation’s No. 127th-ranked pass defense, the deep part of the field figured to be open for business.
Armanti Foreman also got into the act, pulling in a 40-yard touchdown catch from Tyrone Swoopes in the fourth quarter.
“It was more about showing everybody that we can throw the ball deep, that we’re not just a short pass or a run team,” Burt said.
Burt, a freshman, broke out of a mild slump with 113 yards on four catches. Jacorey Warrick was next best with 42 yards on four catches. Marcus Johnson had his chances, but the senior dropped two deep passes from Heard on the same third-quarter possession.
In all, Texas threw for 299 yards, which isn’t all that far off from the combined 361 it produced in the four prior games.
With the deep ball to Burt serving as the catalyst, Heard had one of his better showings, completing 13 of 23 attempts for 201 yards. He did have a bad fumble near his end zone, but his defense stood tall and avoided damage.
“If it’s positive for him early, then you’re gonna get positive results,” head coach Charlie Strong said.