Toneil Carter

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Tom Herman doesn't care to look and see what the betting line is on his upcoming game.

The Longhorns were 33-point favorites heading into Saturday night’s meeting against Kansas, a bottom-feeder program that is now 1-9 after Texas’ 42-27 win at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

“I didn’t know we were — I don’t ever know what favorite we are, no,” Herman said. “That’s a lot, though.”

Perhaps it was a lot for a Texas team entering Saturday with a 4-5 record, fresh off its worst offensive performance of the season last weekend against TCU in Fort Worth. Never mind the fact that the Longhorns shockingly lost to Kansas last November in Lawrence.

Kansas proved why it was a 33-point underdog from the opening kick, when it attempted to catch the Longhorns off guard in their own house.

After winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Jayhawks boldly tried an onside kick. The plan didn’t work, however, as the Longhorns were ready for it and recovered the ball at Kansas’ 49-yard line.

“We’re always prepared for stuff like that,” senior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe said. “Going into this game, you never know what’s gonna happen.”

On Texas’ first play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele delivered a 49-yard touchdown pass to Joe, who got behind the Jayhawks’ secondary.

The Longhorns were up 7-0 just nine seconds into the game. But fans would’ve been remiss to not draw flashbacks to last year’s meeting in Lawrence. Texas scored on its first play from scrimmage in that game as well to take an early 7-0 lead over the Jayhawks. The Longhorns went on to lose 24-21 in overtime, one of the worst losses in program history.

This night would not prove haunting for the burnt orange, though. Texas received boosts from a host of players in the first half to grab control of the game, never letting Kansas get firmly within striking distance.

Fifth-year senior defensive back Antwuan Davis needed just one half to turn in the best performance of his Texas career. Davis intercepted the Jayhawks twice, including a pick-six to put Texas up 14-0, and recovered a Kansas fumble on a punt return.

“It’s a great feeling to be out there with this defense, with this team,” Davis said. “I don’t want to be a missing piece. I want to be a part of this puzzle.”

Freshman running back Toneil Carter and sophomore wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey each rushed for scores in the first half. Freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who didn’t start despite being cleared from a head injury, came in late in the first quarter and tossed an eight-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Cade Brewer.

Early in the second quarter, Texas tried its hand at a 44-yard field goal, but senior Mitchell Becker missed wide left, another chapter in the Longhorns’ kicking woes this season.

Texas scored more points in the opening quarter on Saturday night — 28 — than it has total in five of its games this season. The Longhorns led 35-17 heading into halftime.

But the second half saw mostly offensive ineptitude.

“I think with such an inexperienced (offense) that we have right now, we’ve got to do a better job of not worrying about what the score is and not worrying about how the defense is playing and not worrying about ‘Oh, dang it, they stopped us, we have to punt,’” Herman said.

The biggest story out of Saturday night was simple — the Longhorns (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) got one win closer to bowl eligibility. One more win can help salvage what has been an erratic first season under Herman.

“There’s no lack of confidence, or there’s no issue with perception,” Herman said. “Winning for us right now is going to be hard, and that’s OK. That’s OK. As long as we win.”

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Dominant defensive performances aren’t anything new for Texas this season, but freshmen running backs Toneil Carter and Daniel Young are.

As the Longhorns headed down the tunnel following their victory in Waco Saturday afternoon, not many people in McLane Stadium looked twice when the scoreboard read Texas 38, Baylor 7.

It wasn’t the score that jumped out. It was who did the scoring and how they did it –– on the ground. Texas’ run game, which has been absent for the majority of the season, finally gained a glimpse of traction in the Longhorns’ victory over winless Baylor.

But it wasn’t the 250-pound junior running back Chris Warren III who put the Longhorn running game back on track. It wasn’t even sophomore Kyle Porter, who sat out for the second-straight game due to injury. It was two freshmen: Toneil Carter and Daniel Young, who have seen limited playing time thus far, and even spent time on the scout team.

“Those kids get better everyday. It’s incredible how hard they work and how hard they run,” junior linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “They were scout team at one point and now they're starters and trading in and out. I commend them for everything they're doing. They've been patient with it and let the process take care of itself and you see the success they had on the football field.”

Neither Carter nor Young broke the century mark in the blowout victory, but both proved efficient. Young averaged 8.6 yards per carry after bouncing out to the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown which gave Texas its 38-7 lead in the final moments of the fourth quarter.

And he wasn’t the only freshman running back who had a breakout performance. Toneil Carter averaged 4.7 yards per carry and emerged as the Longhorns’ leading rusher –– just the second time this season a non-quarterback has led the team in rushing.

“They broke tackles, which was encouraging to see,” Herman said. “They slivered around in there when things weren't blocked perfectly … I was proud of them. They protected the football which is always a concern when you're playing true freshmen at running back but I loved what I saw.”

The Longhorn offense wasn’t clicking early, especially in the first quarter where Texas’ only points came after junior defensive back DeShon Elliott returned an interception for a touchdown.

The offensive woes peaked in the second quarter after the defense recovered a Baylor fumble inside the red zone. The Longhorn offense not only failed to get in the endzone, but also saw the field goal attempt blocked to keep the score at 7-0.

However, once Buechele and the offense found its rhythm, it didn't look back. The Longhorns went to the quick-tempo offense early and often. And it not only led to points, but also confidence.

“When we can go fast, it helps a lot with our offense especially just keeping the defense off the field,” Buechele said. “They played a lot of snaps today, they played unbelievable. It was really good to see our running backs and offensive line work the way they did. “

The Longhorn offense now looks forward to its next challenge: a road test against No. 10 TCU. But even after the win Saturday, the 4-4 record is still in the back of some players’ mind.

“It sucks,” Jefferson said. “Because we should be a lot better honestly. But we’re not gonna play like we’re 4-4. We’re still gonna play like we're contending for something.”