LAWRENCE, Kan. - The Longhorns never got into an offensive rhythm Saturday, but some big plays on defense helped them blank Kansas 23-0 to move to 1-0 in conference play.
“You look at the road, and it is tough to go into someone’s place and beat them, especially when playing within the conference,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “This is a big win for us.”
The Texas secondary intercepted four Jayhawk passes in the game, the first being a tipped pass grabbed by senior cornerback Quandre Diggs in the end zone to prevent Kansas from scoring in the first quarter.
Junior cornerback Duke Thomas had two interceptions, one of which he returned for 24 yards to set up a seven-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes in the second quarter.
Thomas made another huge play in the third quarter when he broke up a pass on fourth down to force a turnover after the Jayhawks had driven 79 yards to the Texas five-yard line.
To cap it off, senior linebacker Jordan Hicks added to the team’s interception total with a pick early in the fourth quarter, the second interception of his career, which resulted in a 42-yard field goal by junior placekicker Nick Rose.
The Texas defense has now recorded nine interceptions on the season, after picking off only 10 passes in all of 2013.
“We are attacking the ball,” Diggs said. “We are catching those things; we’re not dropping them. I think that’s tremendous difference. And those guys up front are continuing to eat, so they make our job so much easier.”
Swoopes picked up his first victory as a starter but struggled at times, completing only 19 of his 34 attempts for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
The Longhorns got off to a shaky start, turning the ball over on downs on their first possession and then fumbling a snap on the Kansas five-yard line on their second drive.
Senior receiver Jaxon Shipley broke the game open with a 41-yard punt return to set up Texas’ first score — a one-yard toss from Swoopes to junior tight end M.J. McFarland, giving Texas a 6-0 lead it never relinquished.
Senior receiver John Harris continued his breakout season, hauling in six passes for a team-high 89 yards and a touchdown. Harris has scored in each of Texas’ first four games.
Texas struggled all afternoon to sustain drives, with each of its four scoring drives starting from within Kansas’ 30-yard line. Texas’ longest drive of the afternoon went for 78 yards but ended with the aforementioned fumbled snap inside the Kansas five.
“We just got to find a way to just be consistent and score points,” Strong said. “And when we get a chance, when we are driving the ball, we are the one who is stopping ourselves, stopping the drives.“
Kansas outgained the Longhorns on the ground, 173 to 111. Running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown combined for just 73 yards on 25 carries because the holes simply weren’t there for Texas.
“The run game is critical; we need to open it up,“ Strong said.
The game was Texas’ first shutout on the road since it defeated Baylor 62-0 in 2005. On Sunday, Kansas fired head coach Charlie Weis, who finished with a 6-22 record through two-plus seasons at Kansas.