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'We're not overlooking anybody right now': Slumping Texas hosts struggling Kansas

Kansas' men's basketball season tipped off Tuesday afternoon, and Jayhawks fans must have thought the 87-74 win over Michigan State was great news. For the past few months, those who bleed blue and crimson have had only a struggling football program to root for.

The football team is 1-8. Its .111 winning percentage is tied for the worst in the country among 130 FBS-level teams. The Jayhawks have lost eight straight. They've lost six Big 12 games by an average of 34 points. Their lone win? A three-point triumph in September over FCS school South Dakota.

But ask the Texas Longhorns, and none of that matters. UT, which has lost four straight games itself, won't be overlooking Kansas on Saturday night at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

"Not in the position we're in right now; there's nobody that should be overlooked," defensive lineman Moro Ojomo said.

Texas defenders swarm Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. in 2019 at Royal-Memorial Stadium. That was the last time the two schools played; last year's game was canceled because Texas was dealing with COVID-19 issues.

"We're not overlooking anybody right now — I can tell you that for sure," running back Roschon Johnson said. "I'm making sure that that's happening."

Both players are correct. The Longhorns (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) don't have the luxury of overlooking anybody. In fact, like at Kansas, there probably are some UT fans who are more interested in basketball at the moment. Also on Saturday night, the fifth-ranked Texas men will play at No. 1 Gonzaga. And on Sunday, the No. 25 Texas women will play at No. 3 Stanford, the defending national champion.

The football team has struggled. The Longhorns have dropped four straight despite leading at halftime in all of them. A Texas team hasn't lost five straight since the Longhorns slogged through eight straight losses to close out the 1956 season.

Texas kicker Cameron Dicker watches his 33-yard field goal beat Kansas 50-48 on the final play of the game in 2019. The Longhorns lead the all-time series 16-3, but three of the past four meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer.

And besides avoiding a dubious distinction in the history books, a victory over the Jayhawks would inch Texas one win away from the six-win threshold for a bowl berth. After Kansas, Texas will close out its schedule with games at West Virginia and at home against Kansas State.

"I think the fight's still there," tight end Cade Brewer said. "Losing four straight, it's tough on us. It's tough to bounce back from it. We've just got to get our confidence back, and I think this is a great week to do it."

Sarkisian said both Casey Thompson and Hudson Card would play against the Jayhawks. Johnson (toe), fellow running back Bijan Robinson (neck) and linebacker DeMarvion Overshown (undisclosed) are game-time decisions on the injury report.

Oklahoma wide receiver Jadon Haselwood is tackled by Kansas cornerback Jeremy Webb, behind, and linebacker Rich Miller during the first half of the Sooners' win in Lawrence on Oct. 23. The Jayhawks led by as many as 10 points in the second half.

Despite its recent struggles, Texas is still heavily favored. Kansas ranks last in the Big 12 in scoring (15.1 points per game), scoring defense (42.8 ppg), total offense (306.1 yards per game) and total defense (482.3 ypg).

However ...

Kansas put a scare in Oklahoma three weeks ago, leading by as much as 10 points in the second half in Lawrence. The Sooners rallied to win 35-23, but it took a mind-blowing play by OU quarterback Caleb Williams to secure the victory.

When asked this week for his analysis of that Kansas-Oklahoma game, Brewer suggested the Sooners didn't take the Jayhawks seriously. Ojomo opined that the Big 12 is "like Russian roulette. Which bullet's going to get you?" 

Said Texas coach Steve Sarkisian: "Once you turn that (Kansas-Oklahoma) tape on, they get it. We've got to come to play Saturday."

Texas also could just turn on the film from a number of its recent Kansas games. The Longhorns lead the all-time series 16-3, but only one of the last four meetings has been decided by more than a touchdown. (Last year's game was canceled because of COVID-19 issues with Texas.)

Back in 2016, Kansas upset Texas in overtime in Lawrence, essentially ending the Charlie Strong era. Texas beat Kansas to secure a trip to the Big 12 championship game two years later, but the Longhorns still needed to recover an onside kick in the final minutes to ice a 24-17 victory. And Cameron Dicker's game-ending 33-yard field goal lifted Texas to a 50-48 win in 2019.

"Obviously, we've had our struggles in the past few years with Kansas," Brewer said. "We can't just let them come in here and think we're going to roll over them."

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Texas vs. Kansas

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Royal-Memorial Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 104.9, 105.3 (Spanish), 99.3, 98.5, 1260