Inspired by his late cousin, Jacoby Jones goes out with a win in his Texas finale
After running down a Kansas State Wildcat in the backfield Friday, Texas defensive lineman Jacoby Jones did a celebratory dance.
Jones won’t hold it against anyone who thought that he was doing the “Griddy." But no, he later explained, it was more of a “Louisiana jig.”
"If you're from Louisiana, you understand," Jones said.
Call it what you want, but Jones had reasons to jig, dance and Griddy. His third-quarter stop contributed to UT’s solid defensive effort in the 22-17 win over Kansas State. He also was playing for the first time since suffering a foot injury in October.
Jones assured reporters earlier in the week that he’d play against the Wildcats. He was cleared to return for the Nov. 20 loss at West Virginia but was held out as a precaution.
Sure enough, it was announced before Friday’s kickoff that Jones would be available. But in the first half, that green light looked more like yellow.
Jones started but was pulled after the first defensive snap. Later in the first quarter, he again had a teammate tag him out after one snap. After another abbreviated appearance, an excited Jones was seen pleading for more playing time on the sidelines.
"I think they were saying just put my foot in the water, trying to let me get the feel of the temperature," Jones said. "Once they seen me rocking, they were like, let him go."
Jones eventually began to play for prolonged stretches. His third-quarter rundown of receiver Phillip Brooks cost Kansas State 10 yards and helped knock the Wildcats out of field goal position.
The defense limited the Wildcats to 102 yards of offense after halftime. After their 51-yard field goal gave the Wildcats a 17-13 lead with 1 minute, 56 seconds left in the second quarter, they did not score again.
"That was a great game overall. Just a team win, good complementary football," Texas quarterback Casey Thompson said. "The defense pitched a shutout in the second half, which is amazing. ... It was great to see the defense come alive like that."
In the fourth quarter, Texas twice thwarted Kansas State on fourth-and-1 rushing attempts. Moro Ojomo’s stuff of running back Deuce Vaughn at the Kansas State 30 led to a 22-yard field goal and Texas taking a 22-17 lead. Keondre Coburn later stopped Wildcats quarterback Will Howard on a pivotal fourth down at the Longhorns' 17.
Both Ojomo and Coburn had exited the game in the first half with neck stingers.
"I think it tells you something that they were back in there fighting and back in there making plays at critical moments," UT coach Steve Sarkisian said. "Those guys have been steady players for us."
Throughout this season, Texas has leaned on the cast of characters that are the team’s defensive linemen to do postgame and midweek interviews with the media. Ojomo has proved to be a philosopher while Coburn has provided the jokes. Ovie Oghoufo was a steady voice during the six-game losing streak. Jones, an aspiring musician, is the artist of the group.
Coburn, Ojomo and Oghoufo can return to Texas in 2022 if they want. But Jones, who spent two years at Butler Community College before transferring to Texas in 2019, has exhausted his eligibility. Next year he'll either be playing professionally or using the youth and community studies degree that he'll complete in December.
Before Friday’s game, he was honored during UT’s Senior Day festivities. Upon hearing his name called, Jones ran out of the tunnel with his Horns up.
Jones had considered carrying out with him a photo of his cousin. Tyetyana McLemore was killed in his native Shreveport last year.
On Aug. 16, 2020, McLemore was injured in a shooting while she was traveling on the interstate. According to a Shreveport Times report, she was transferred to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. Jones was participating in UT's fall camp at the time and didn't travel home because he believed McLemore would pull through.
McLemore died Sept. 7. She was 21.
"I wish I had got back home sooner when I found out she was in the hospital," Jones said. "That's one thing I regret, not going back home and seeing her and putting football before her. I kind of regret that situation, thinking she was going to live because she wasn't promised another day."
Texas opened its 2020 season Sept. 12 with a 59-3 win over UTEP. Instead of celebrating the win, Jones buried his cousin.
He said he and McLemore were both raised in their grandmother's home in Shreveport, so he considers her a sister. He credited former UT assistant coaches Chris Ash and Oscar Giles as well as Coburn for the support they lent him.
"I feel like that was a big impact, and it motivated me to do better," Jones said. "I looked at it as a negative, but also as a positive. It lit some fire up in me for me to have a decent season last year."
Jones finished his final season with 29 tackles, 1½ sacks and two fumble recoveries. In January, he revealed on social media that he'd return to Texas for one more season. He signed off his announcement with a "LongLiveTete" hashtag.
At Big 12 media days this summer, Coburn predicted that Jones was "probably the breakout player" on the defense this season. Jones went on to start six times before his foot injury caused him to miss five games. On Friday, he returned in time to help Texas end its season on a high note.
"I wish I could have got back sooner than later," Jones said. "But I got back just in time to get a win before we left."