Longhorns ring up 638 yards and it's almost not enough as defense let the Jayhawks run wild
Posted October 20th, 2019
The genesis for what happened Saturday night at Royal-Memorial Stadium actually happened last Tuesday. It’s every Tuesday, really.
Before every Tuesday practice truly begins, the Longhorns work on their two-minute drill. The whole idea is to get a field goal. So Saturday night, quarterback Sam Ehlinger went up and down the sideline telling his offensive teammates to be cool. “Just like Tuesday practice,” he told them.
When Texas got the ball back trailing by one with 1:11 left in a rather wild affair against Kansas, those on the sideline were calm.
“Running the same scenarios every Tuesday just allowed me to feel comfortable out there,” kicker Cameron Dicker said.
Ehlinger threw two perfect passes to Collin Johnson for 20 and 11 yards, then another to Devin Duvernay for six. Enter Dicker, the kicker, who stepped up and drilled a 33-yard field goal as time expired, giving No. 15 Texas a 50-48 victory at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
The Longhorns (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) will gladly take this victory and move on. But it’s clear now this defense is incredibly flawed — be it because of injuries, youth, flawed scheme, missed tackles, whatever you like.
Kansas (2-5, 0-4) had 569 total yards as running back Pooka Williams tallied 190 on the ground, the highest figure any opponent’s posted in the Tom Herman era at UT. Kudos to Kansas’ new offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon, who made his play-calling debut in gangbuster fashion.
Can this Texas team accomplish anything special this season if Herman and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando can’t figure out how to generate a pass rush or fix the tackling?
“No. Next question,” Herman said in the post-game press conference.
What can be fixed?
“Everything. Next question.”
Herman said the outcome was largely due to the team’s inability to play “complementary football on the offensive side, in my opinion.”
Texas turned it over four times, including twice on fourth down in the middle of the field. Still, UT had 638 total yards, the 12th-highest total in school history. Ehlinger threw four touchdowns, ran for 91 yards and running back Keaontay Ingram got back on track with 101 rushing yards, too.
As if that wasn’t enough, Texas’ everywhere-at-all-times linebacker Joseph Ossai blocked a field goal just before halftime. Senior Malcolm Roach blocked an extra-point attempt that D’Shawn Jamison took 98 yards the other way for two points.
That’s more than enough to beat lowly Kansas, right? Not when Texas has what is shaping up to be the worst defense in school history, statically speaking.
“We finished the game, finished hard. That’s the one thing I’m proud of,” Jamison said.
On Kansas’ final drive, Texas had 5-10 Mason Ramirez, a former walk-on who has shifted from defense to offense and then back to defense, out there guarding the Jayhawks’ slot receiver. Safety Brandon Jones had 10 tackles before he left the game in the fourth quarter with a stinger, making a long injury list even longer.
“You’ve just got to keep going, keep working,” Ossai said. “Next guys up, they’re pretty tough guys. They’re pretty good. They may be young, but you’ve just got to work with them. Get in a room, get them as much film as you can. Do what you can to scrap out a win. That’s what we’re doing.”
The Longhorns wore throwback uniforms honoring the 1969 national championship team. Herman wore a white baseball hat with an orange block T to honor the late Darrell Royal. This was supposed to be an easy night at the office against a 21-point underdog. After all, this was Kansas.
But Texas led just 31-24 with 10:22 left to play. On first-and-10 from his own 9, Ehlinger threw a dart right to Kansas’ Najee Stevens-McKenzie for an interception. Two plays later, Williams was darting through the defense for a 16-yard touchdown.
Had Kansas hit that extra point, it would’ve been all tied up. But Roach shot through the line and blocked the attempt, and Jamison scooped it up and went the other way, giving UT a 33-30 lead.
On Texas’ next possession, Ehlinger connected with Duvernay for a 43-yard score. Dicker hit his extra-point attempt, and suddenly, the Horns had a 10-point lead and were in total command. This should have been over.
“Statistically, it looks good, but I kind of agree, we left some points out there,” Duvernay said. “Pretty much every time we had to punt, it was self-inflicted.”
Kansas got a 46-yard field goal on its next possession. No big deal, or so it seemed. But Jake Smith fumbled after a 13-yard catch, and the Jayhawks took over again at UT’s 36. Carter Stanley threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Parchment and the game was tied, 40-40.
If Stanley’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he authored Kansas’ 2016 win over Texas that got former coach Charlie Strong fired. At that time, it was only his second start. Now a well-seasoned senior, he threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns, getting sacked only once.
Texas now has only one sack in the last three games as there is no pass rush to speak of. If Orlando doesn’t send numerous blitzers, the Horns are getting virtually no pressure.
“You think that people that leave the stadium will know Kansas? I think they will know that phrase. Kansas,” KU coach Les Miles said. “It seems a little bit more now to me. Kansas.”
The two teams traded touchdowns, then Miles went for the win as Daylon Charlot caught a pass on a successful two-point conversion with 1:11 left. That’s when Ehlinger started walking up and down the sideline, getting his teammates ready for what was to come next.
Everybody be cool. Everybody be calm. “Just like Tuesday practice,” Ehlinger told his teammates.
“No stress. Confidence,” he said afterward. “We prepared for it. I have all the confidence in the world that we were going to convert.”
Johnson admitted he’s been frustrated with a hamstring injury that kept him out three games. Still, he finished with eight catches for 96 yards. “Down by two, gotta score a field goal,” he said. “If you train for a moment like that over and over again, it’s going to seem not effortless but real comfortable out there.”
The head coach was sure happy it all worked out.
“I love kickers,” said Herman, who refuses to call specialists by name. “I’m glad we got the one that we have, the snapper, the holder and all of that.”
Just don’t ask about the defense.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.