Kansas

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

The sequel is rarely as good as the original, but Wednesday’s match was exactly the case in the latest chapter of the Texas-Kansas rivalry.

The Big 12 powerhouses duked it out in a five-set thriller on Oct. 11 in Lawrence, Kansas. After falling behind 2-1, Texas exploded for a pair of set wins to complete the comeback and escape with a 3-2 victory.

The Longhorns repeated the same magic on Wednesday night at Gregory Gym, sweeping the Jayhawks, 3-0.

Texas could do no wrong in the early moments of the first set. The Longhorns fed off the energy of the home crowd, dominating the Jayhawks and claiming a commanding 19-13 lead. Then came the hard part. Kansas came alive with its back against the wall, igniting a 10-4 run to tie the score at 23.

But the Longhorns didn’t waver. Senior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu soared towards the net, locked in on a lob pass off the fingers of freshman setter Ashley Shook.

Ogbogu cocked her hand back and unleashed a powerful kill toward the left corner, dropping just outside the reach of the Kansas defenders and bringing Texas to set point. A Kansas error on the following play sealed the deal, giving the Longhorns a statement 25-23 win.

“I feel like we were in control for most of game one,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We just made some errors and let them back in the game, but we found way.”

The sequel reached its climax in the second set as the two teams battled for higher ground. Kansas silenced the crowd by taking a 20-19 lead down the stretch, but Ogbogu delivered with yet another response.

The Coppell native posted six kills in the set, including a momentum-shifting bullet down the middle to give Texas a 22-20 lead. The Longhorns didn’t look back, finishing the rally for a 25-22 victory.

“We did a really good job this game of just looking each other in the eye and making sure we had each other’s back,” Ogbogu said. “Giving each other confidence helped others, and it helped me as well.”

The Jayhawks reached their breaking point in the third set, crumbling as the Longhorns erupted for an early 18-11 lead. With the crowd on its feet, Texas went for the kill, storming to a 25-16 win to complete the sweep.

Ogbogu led the team with a game-high 14 kills in the outing, and senior libero Cat McCoy tallied a team-high 17 digs as well. The victory clinches at least a share of the Big 12 title for Texas, an accomplishment that eluded them last season.

“Not winning it last year was obviously disappointing,” McCoy said. “This conference gets better every single year, so for us to at least win a share of (the championship) says a lot about this team.”

Next up for the Longhorns is a home match against Oklahoma on Nov. 22. First serve from Gregory Gym is set at 7 p.m.

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Some players call him old man, others just call him ‘Twuan, but Saturday night, fifth-year senior Antwuan Davis was just the next man up.

Texas adopted the slogan “next man up” in response to players who are forced to step up when the team loses a player to injury. However, with the news of starting cornerback Holton Hill’s season-long suspension combined with the injury of junior nickelback and team captain P.J. Locke III, it begged the question, who is that next man?

That question found an answer when Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley released the ball from his own end zone. The ball left Stanley’s fingertips and right into fifth-year senior Antwuan Davis’ hands. Davis returned the interception all the way to the corner of the endzone to give Texas an early 14-0 lead.

And just like that, Texas found its next man up.

“Once I had the ball, all I could see is the end zone,” Davis said. “I saw the whole d-line blocking, I saw a cornerback come over and throw a block and I said ‘Man thank y’all. This means the most to me.’”

This wasn’t just any ordinary pick-six for Davis, though. This was his payoff for the hard work he put in not only on the field, but in the class.

The defensive back found himself in a predicament last season. After getting redshirted in his his first season at Texas, Davis technically had one fifth and final season of eligibility.

However, in order to play, he needed to graduate.

“This is a guy that needed to pass an ungodly amount of hours in the spring and summer to graduate, and he needed to graduate to be eligible to play this season,” Herman said. “(Safeties coach) Craig Naivar dove into his life and prodded him and taught him and mentored him.”

Davis said he was forced to take five classes during one session, followed by one during an off period and another four during the summer –– all for one more season of eligibility.

As the summer came to a close, Davis received his diploma.

“The day that my diploma came in at the end of the summer and I was cleared for the season, I hugged coach Naivar and I hugged coach Herman because these guys really helped me get all the way through to where I am,” Davis said. “It was such an appreciative moment.”

Several months have passed since Davis got his hands on his diploma, but he said the younger guys on team still ask him about his five-year journey at Texas.

“These guys hung in here with me from spring from two years ago,” Davis said. “Some of the freshman are like, ‘Man how do you do it?’ I’m like man you’ve just got to be patient. You've just gotta wait till your time comes.’

Davis’ time happens to be now. Between Locke’s injury and Hill’s suspension, Davis was asked to step up. And he did. The fifth-year senior recorded a second interception in the second quarter and even recovered a fumbled punt.

After the game, junior safety DeShon Elliott saw Davis walk by.

“What’s up, old man?” Elliot asked.

Despite the teasing, which Davis promises is out of love, Elliott wasn’t surprised by the performance from that “old man.”

“He balled. I knew he could ball,” Elliott said. “I’ve been sitting behind him for two years. I knew when he got in the game, he was gonna take advantage of the opportunity and was gonna do his job and that’s what he did.”

Now, Davis can see the end of his Longhorn career. After the game, the fifth-year senior reflected on his journey on the 40 Acres and expressed his gratitude to his teammates and coaching staff for the help and opportunities along the way. 

And for these last two games, the Longhorns are just asking Davis for one thing in return: be their next man up.

“I tell these guys all the time, I cherish them,” Davis said. “I cherish the guys that I’m in here with. Seeing these young guys develop, I’m like man I wonder what the older guys think of me now. Old man ‘Twuan out there with them young guys. It’s just a real appreciative moment. Having my last one in two weeks, it’s gonna be tough but I really feel like I’m ready for it.”

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: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

They never wanted it to be brought up again, but this week they had no choice.

As they prepare to face Kansas on Saturday, nearly a year since the Longhorns suffered a 24-21 overtime defeat to the Jayhawks in one of the worst losses in program history, Texas players were inevitably asked this week about that ghastly cold day in Lawrence, Kansas, last November.

“No, we try not to talk about it,” junior linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “But we know in the back of our head what happened.”

What happened is to this day still hard for many Longhorn fans to wrap their heads around. How could a national power like Texas lose to one of the worst programs in college football? Kansas entered that game having won just one of its last 25 games and hadn’t beaten Texas since 1938.

When Texas wide receiver Jacorey Warrick scored on the first play from scrimmage in last year’s meeting, there was seemingly zero doubt in the Longhorns’ minds over what the game’s outcome would be.

“With that, we definitely thought we were gonna win the game,” senior linebacker Naashon Hughes said.

Eleven seconds in, the Longhorns were in front 7-0, but what transpired over the next few hours was unthinkable. The Jayhawks hung around and even took a 10-7 lead into halftime. In the fourth quarter, the Longhorns were in control and led 21-10.

Kansas came all the way back to tie the game at 21. A 36-yard field goal by the Jayhawks with seven seconds left in regulation sent the game into overtime.

Texas had the ball first in overtime, but quarterback Shane Buechele threw an interception that led to the Jayhawks kicking a 25-yard field goal for the win — Kansas 24, Texas 21.

Kansas fans stormed the field and tore down a goal post. Poona Ford laid flat on his back and stared at the sky. Charles Omenihu slammed his helmet against the turf and shouted in disgust.

“It just really taught us not to take a team for granted at the end of the day,” junior defensive end Chris Nelson said. “It left a bad taste in our mouths. It’s something that we don’t want to experience again.”

After the game, former head coach Charlie Strong sat at a table for his postgame press conference. He was shocked. He was quiet. He didn’t know what to say.

“Do you have any idea what this means for your future?” a reporter asked.

Strong stuttered, paused, then mustered a couple words.

“No idea,” Strong said.

“I don’t think we knew what was gonna happen after that,” Hughes said. “But basically we knew that because of the play that we had produced on the field and (because we) didn’t come out with a win, (Strong’s) job was now in jeopardy.”

That loss in Lawrence last November set in motion the beginning of the Tom Herman era at Texas.

Less than a week later, the Longhorns lost to TCU at home, 31-9, the day after Thanksgiving in Strong’s last game. Strong was fired the next day, and Herman was immediately hired.

On Saturday evening, Texas will meet Kansas, this time in Austin. The Longhorns are 34-point favorites. Asked on Monday if he planned on bringing up last year’s loss in Lawrence with his team this week, Herman brushed it off.

“We were 16-21 in the past three years. There’s plenty of reminders,” Herman said. “The past is, in my opinion, not a great motivator.”

But the past still had to be brought up this week.

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

It all started with one email. 

Junior linebacker Gary Johnson hasn’t always worn a burnt orange jersey with ‘Texas’ embroidered across his chest. He hasn’t even always been a part of Division I football, either. 

Johnson’s college career started when his high school coach in Alabama sent a mass email to several junior college head coaches across the country back in 2015. 

The email left Douglas High School and traveled 965 miles straight to Dodge City Community College. It didn’t take long — in fact, all it took was a mere glimpse — for head coach Gary Thomas to know Johnson had something. 

“Obviously you could watch about the first five plays of the film and figure out he was a little different,” Thomas said. “We called him. I think he had a few people in the mix that day, but we ended up signing him.”

Dodge City, Kansas

And just like that, Johnson’s career began –– in Dodge City, Kansas, population of 27,453. The transition from high school to community college isn’t always easy, but Johnson said he knew what he had to do. 

“It was a pretty hard step coming from high school to junior college,” Johnson said. “But it made me mature fast enough to know that I had to do what I had to do and get to the next level and that’s what I did.”

Johnson spent the next two years trying to get to the next level as he started at linebacker for the Dodge City Conquistadors. Thomas said both his linebacker and team saw success.

In Johnson’s two seasons in Kansas, Dodge City Community College finished 9–3 and 7–4, respectively. And in addition to the record-breaking seasons, Johnson was named No. 1 Junior College linebacker. 

“He’s a tremendous athlete –– an athlete that doesn’t come around all that often,” Thomas said. “He’s an incredibly gifted individual from an athletic standpoint and a super charismatic and likable person on and off the field. We had a good experience with him.”

Division I programs across the country took notice and all of a sudden, Johnson no longer needed coaches to email video clips of his performances. It even caught the attention of one program in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

From crimson to burnt orange 

Johnson’s success eventually caught the attention of Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Johnson committed with plans on returning to play football in the south. Thomas said Saban would call and FaceTime Johnson to check up on Alabama’s commit’s status to make sure there were no bumps along the way. 

“He was committed to Alabama for probably six months, if not more than that,” Thomas said. “There was a lot of schools that stayed in pursuit of him in case he didn’t make it there or something happened.”

And something did happen. Johnson was forced to reopen recruitment after decommitting from Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide due to academic requirements which prevented the linebacker from playing for any team in the SEC. 

“When it got down to crunch time after he decommitted from Alabama, him and me had a pretty long conversation one night,” Thomas said. “He called me, it might have been the night before signing day. He was on the fence about what he wanted to do so we talked down a list of the pros and cons of all the situations.”

Johnson wasn’t a heavily recruited player out of high school, so the recruiting process was a new one. But Johnson wasn’t just deciding on what school to commit to. He was also ultimately deciding, where he wanted his last shot at Division I football to be. USC and Ohio State were on the table, but Thomas said it really came down to two schools: Arizona State and Texas. 

“Basically, after what happened when I was at Dodge City as far as me having to decommit from Alabama, I had to find a new home,” Johnson said. “It was pretty difficult. Once I set aside the schools I was interested in and took my visits, it was pretty much obvious that Texas was the place for me.”

Johnson’s arrival 

After two seasons at Dodge City Community College, Johnson finally arrived at Texas to play Division I football for the Longhorns. Senior linebacker and team captain Naashon Hughes briefly talked about Johnson’s contributions to the Longhorn defense, but he spent more time telling the story of the first time they met. 

Hughes said Johnson walked into one of his classes and quickly brought up his track days at Douglas High School. Hughes tried telling Johnson he had some speed too, but little did Hughes know, Johnson won the Alabama state title in the 100 meter dash with a time of 10.59 seconds –– with no blocks. 

“I was telling him I can run a little bit. He was like, ‘I run a 10.5 no blocks,’” Hughes said. “I was like, ‘Alright, you’ve probably got me beat by a little bit’ ... I knew he wasn’t lying because then the coaches told me, ‘Yeah, he ran a 10.5 no blocks.’ ... I’m from a track city, I’m a track guy. I was like OK, he’s for real about his speed.”

Johnson’s speed has impressed his teammates at every level, whether in Dodge City or inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Now, the junior college transfer has another chance to showcase his speed. This time, it’s against Kansas. 

Although Johnson doesn’t have the same taste in his mouth as his teammates after Texas’ heart-wrenching loss to the Jayhawks last year, he still knows what that loss meant as he watched the game unfold in Lawrence, Kansas.

“I pretty much didn’t know what to think,” Johnson said. “Things happen. I just couldn’t wait to get there and help win next year.”

The junior will put on a burnt orange uniform for just the tenth time as Texas prepares to take on Kansas at 5 p.m. on Saturday in an attempt to not only avenge last year’s loss but also bring Texas one game closer to bowl eligibility. 

As for Dodge City Community College, the 4–6 Conquistadors are set to host Hutchinson Community College at 1 p.m. Head coach Gary Thomas and his squad won’t finish with a 9–3 or 7–4 record like they did while Johnson was there, but Thomas still recognizes that those two years in Dodge City, Kansas were good for the both of them.

“We won a lot of football games while he was here,” Thomas said. “We won 16 games in the two years he was here. That was the most out of anybody in the conference at the time and the most wins this school has ever had in a two-year span. It definitely worked out well for us and it worked out for him as well.”

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

It’s been three years since former head coach Charlie Strong spoke to reporters following Texas’ fifth loss of the season, telling the media five losses in a year “will never happen in this program again.” The sentiment came off Texas’ second straight losing season, and Strong’s first after replacing Mack Brown at the end of the
2013 seasons.

Fast-forward four seasons and one head coach, and Strong’s proclamation looks absurd in hindsight. Since the beginning of Strong’s tenure in August 2014, Texas has gone 20–26, with first-year head coach Tom Herman sporting a 4–5 record heading into this Saturday. 

Herman entered the programs with high hopes, looking to reverse the program’s culture in his first season. After three straight losing seasons, Herman’s found a program lacking the intensity necessary to compete in the Big 12.

“Losing has to be awful,” Herman said in July during Big 12 Media Days. “You can never get used to losing. That’s one of the biggest maybe downfalls for a lot of teams is you get used to losing ... It’s not just ‘oh, well, we’ll get them next week.’ No, it’s ‘the sky is falling’ type stuff.”

But for as much confidence as Herman could instill in his team before the season opener, it hasn’t been enough to overcome Texas’ personnel issues, especially on the offensive end. The problems have been most glaring on the offensive line, which Herman noted at his press conference on Monday. Texas has spent all of conference play without All-American left tackle Connor Williams, and currently starts freshman Derek Kerstetter at right tackle. It’s an inexperienced unit, one that has too often failed to protect its quarterbacks. 

“Fixing the problem (on the offensive line) is probably a very tall order to expect in three weeks,” Herman said on Monday. “I think the biggest thing that we can do as a staff is mask the deficiencies as best we can. I think that comes in getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quicker. It comes in, you know, not maybe asking our offensive linemen to block anybody one-on-one; is to try to set up as many double teams as possible in the run game.”

Texas’ offensive line struggles have exacerbated the Longhorns’ other shortcomings on that side of the ball. The burnt orange running backs have proved to be pedestrian regardless of whom is in the game, with Texas’ top four backs running for a combined 2.3 yards per carry. And with both freshman Sam Ehlinger and sophomore Shane Buechele spending much of the year on the mend, the Longhorns’ passing attack has been inconsistent. Neither quarterback has been able to gain a hold of the starting position, and questions marks will surround the depth chart each week through the rest of the season.

So where does that leave the Longhorns with three games remaining? With a stout defense and manageable schedule ahead (including two home games against teams under .500) Texas could win out, and enter bowl season at 7–5. But such a subpar offense may very well tank the Longhorn defense and cause Herman and company to limp to a disappointing 5–7 campaign.

Once August rolls around next year, the potential disparity in record won’t be significant. The Longhorns will enter the season with an impressive recruiting class, and an added year of Herman’s system. Big things will be expected.

At this point, the priority for Texas should be the health of its team, most notably Ehlinger and Williams, and building the next core of the Longhorns’ future. A bowl appearance may boast spirits heading into the offseason, but it will have little impact on the future of the program. The Longhorns failed to reverse its culture in 2017. Now their focus must be laying the groundwork for 2018 and beyond.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Katy Lonergan | Daily Texan Staff

Daniel Wise’s prodigious athletic career rose to impressive heights at an early age. But Wise’s first successes at the national level occurred on the rubber polyurethane rather than a grassy turf.

The junior defensive tackle, while in elementary and middle school, qualified for several events in the Junior Olympics including the 800-meter and the 1500-meter races. The former long distance runner was a member of the cross country team in middle school and upon entering high school, he continued to pursue track and field by throwing the shot put and the discus.

Using the myriad of skills acquired from cross country, track and even wrestling, Wise’s multisport talents ended up creating a powerful, quick-footed Division I defensive tackle for the Kansas Jayhawks.

“Obviously, there’s high energy in football,” Wise said. “You’re always running around toward the ball. Long distance helps you pace yourself.”

Although Wise’s athletic career first gathered momentum in track and field, his family displays an impressive lineage of football players. His father Deatrich was drafted as a defensive tackle by the Seattle Seahawks in 1988 and his brother Deatrich Jr. — a former Arkansas defensive end — just entered professional football six months ago when the New England Patriots selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

“Seeing (my brother) get drafted, seeing all the emotion that played into that was important, and hopefully I’ll get that call as well,” Wise said on his family’s continued success in the sport. “Our dad was our football coach. He watched us grow up and taught us the game.”

Given Wise’s success on the field at Kansas, receiving that call is a realistic goal after his collegiate career concludes in Lawrence. In 2016, he was an All-Big 12 selection by the Associated Press after recording three sacks and nine tackles for loss. But those respectable numbers have only ballooned in this 2017 season. The Jayhawks’ star pass rusher currently has four sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss with a quarter of his games still remaining.

“Yeah, he’s a pretty versatile guy at that position,” head coach David Beaty said. “You don’t see it very often. You might see a (defensive end) that you might be able to move inside every now and then to a six technique, even a four and a three-down front sometimes. But this guy, being a defensive tackle and moving him to a rush end and being able to do that, that’s pretty unique.”

Before following in the footsteps of his older brother and father to the NFL, Wise plans to make the most of his experience as a Jayhawk, and he currently plays a large leadership role on the Jayhawks’ defensive line. He also embraces his off-the-field endeavors, as one of his primary objectives before leaving campus is completing his communications degree.

“He’s grown up so much from the first time that we ever met him,” Beaty said. “He’s turned into a real pro, and he’s turned into the leader. He’s really taken over that leadership role for our football team which is good to see. And he’s a productive guy. Right? And he cares about KU. That’s one of the things that I love about him most, he truly cares about this university.”

Quarterback

Advantage: Texas

The Longhorns’ offensive line struggles to protect whichever quarterback happens to be healthy that game. Sophomore Shane Buechele appears to have reclaimed the starting role after posting a 254-yard performance against the best defense in the Big 12. Moving from TCU to the conference-worst Jayhawks, Buechele will likely shine as Texas appears poised for another home blowout. 

Sophomore quarterback Carter Stanley holds the reins to the worst Big 12 offense in recent memory. The Jayhawks dropped nine points in a 38-9 blowout loss to Baylor, one week after Texas crushed that same Bears team in Waco by 31 points. Kansas is averaging just 19 points per contest, and after posting 21 total yards against TCU earlier this season, the threat of a shutout in Austin is real. 

Running Back

Advantage: Texas

It seems wrong to give Texas the edge in anything related to the running game. The Longhorns had 26 rushes for an unbelievable nine yards against TCU and sit at seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense. The team has gone through a number of running backs in its search for a fit, but the beat-up offensive line makes production up the middle hard to come by.

Texas’ advantage is more of a testament to the truly woeful Kansas team that sits at the bottom of the conference in total offense and second to last in rushing offense. Sophomore running back Khalil Herbert leads the Kansas ground game with 615 yards in eight games, and ran for 71 yards on 10 tries against Baylor. 

Wide Receiver

Advantage: Texas

Shane Buechele connected with 11 different receivers against TCU — the third week in a row a Longhorn quarterback has found 10 or more receivers in a contest. Sophomore wide receiver Lil’ Jordan Humphrey finished with 109 yards, including a career high 42-yard reception. This deep and talented group continues to be limited by the struggles on and around the line.

Junior wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. has managed to put up big numbers all season amidst a floundering offense. Sims earned 210 total yards against Baylor, including 157 on kick returns and another 42 receiving. Unfortunately for Kansas the worst has yet to come, as the team faces off with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State after Texas in its last two matchups of the season. 

Defense 

Advantage: Texas

Texas’ defense continues to exceed expectations. Despite a stellar performance against TCU, including eight forced three-and-outs, the other side of the ball simply cannot produce. With as well as the Longhorn defense is playing, Kansas may be facing its third shutout in five games.

Redshirt junior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. is a defensive juggernaut. His 12.2 tackles per game ranks third in the nation and first in the Big 12, and his 2.2 tackles for loss per game are the second-highest in the country. Dineen’s individual brilliance still fails to cover the many holes of the porous Kansas line.

Develop some kind of offensive consistency

Last season, the Longhorns had to beat TCU on Thanksgiving in order to become bowl eligible after blowing a golden opportunity with an upsetting loss to Kansas in Lawrence. In what became the final game of former head coach Charlie Strong’s Texas career, the Longhorns lost, 31-9.

Much like in last year’s game, the Longhorn offense looked listless and inefficient versus the Horned Frog defense this past weekend. Sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele connected on some deep throws but struggled to consistently lead the offense to the end zone. The running game continued to struggle, gaining only nine yards throughout the entire contest.

Kansas has struggled against every Big 12 team it has faced, losing each game by more than 10 points. With the Longhorns hosting, this is the perfect opportunity to fine-tune the offense and pick up the fifth victory of the season, with two games left to play.

Score points, create field position on defense

With the offense struggling the way it has been recently, the Longhorn defense must pick up more of the slack. The best way to achieve this is through turnovers returned for touchdowns or setting of the offense with excellent field position.

Junior punter Michael Dickson has done a masterful job flipping the field this season with booming punts, which has resulted in him being named a Ray Guy Award weekly honor twice this season. The defense must keep opposing offenses wherever the punts land to stop momentum and create a short field for opposing punters to work with.

Playmakers such as juniors DeShon Elliott and Holton Hill have proven capable of scoring touchdowns on the defensive side of the ball. In the case of Elliott, one of those scores gave the Longhorns momentum versus USC earlier this season. If Texas hopes to make a bowl game this season, the defense will have to score more points than it already has. 

Figure out a solution to Joshua Rowland  

Junior kicker Joshua Rowland’s 47-yard field goal attempt during the second quarter of last weekend’s game was a play that seemingly defined the season for Texas. Rowland’s aim was perfect, but the kick didn’t have enough juice and landed just short of the goal.

Rowland has had a terribly inconsistent season, making only half of his kicks. While the kicking issues may not be a game-killer versus the Jayhawks, it could become a major factor against teams such as West Virginia and Texas Tech.

With the season coming to a close, and the Longhorns being two games away from bowl eligibility, it is very possible that the entire season comes down to a single kick. Longhorn nation cannot be comfortable with Rowland in that situation.

Carter Stanley

Quarterback, #9

Stanley suffered an injury in the 38-9 loss to Baylor last weekend, but the quarterback may be ready to go come 5 p.m. in Austin on Saturday. The sophomore quarterback famously left Texas fans with a bitter taste in their mouths near the end of the 2016 season, when Stanley captained two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to lead Kansas to its first victory over Texas since 1938.

With Washington State transfer Peyton Bender starting the season under center, Stanley didn’t receive many in-game reps until recently. In his first start of the season, the Vero Beach native threw for a career-high 418 yards and one touchdown, falling 30-20 to archrival Kansas State. But Stanley has beaten just one FBS team in his career, the same one he’ll face at Darrell K Royal Stadium in Week 11.

Khalil Herbert

Running back, #10

Herbert tore apart West Virginia’s defense with a 291-yard outing on the ground on Sept. 23. His career day resulted in the best rushing performance of 2017, a mark which has since been shattered by Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate.

But in that game, Herbert showed his true potential. He has found the end zone just four times this season, and all of his touchdowns have been recorded in his two 100-yard games. After a stretch of limited carries, Herbert got back on track in Week 10, earning 71 yards on 10 carries versus Baylor. But the sophomore running back experienced a truly special moment in his first year as a Jayhawk — scoring Kansas’ final touchdown in the monumental upset over Texas.

Steven Sims Jr.

Wide receiver, #11

Just like Herbert, Sims rattled off a breakout performance with mind-boggling numbers. In the loss in Lawrence to Kansas State, Sims earned 233 receiving yards on nine catches, including a 60-yard touchdown pass during Kansas’ comeback effort in the fourth quarter.

Sims, after a highly productive 2016 campaign, leads Kansas in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for the second-consecutive season. The junior receiver from Houston is on a hot streak of his own, collecting 16 catches for 275 yards in the past two weeks. Sims ran in the two-point conversion to cut Kansas’ deficit to three points during the Jayhawks’ last FBS victory, the win over the Longhorns in 2016.

Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Defensive end, #2

Armstrong ranked second in the Big 12 a season ago by tallying 10 sacks in just 12 games suiting up for Kansas. The junior defensive end — also a Houston native — has forced three fumbles in two consecutive seasons, constantly acting as a force on Kansas’ most star-studded position group: its defensive line. Armstrong forced a conference-best 20 tackles for loss in 2016 and he has already recorded eight stops behind the line of scrimmage this season.

Armstrong’s pass rushing will be key against Texas’ offensive line, which allowed a season-high seven sacks at TCU last Saturday. The 6-foot-4 defensive end is no stranger to winning battles in the trenches against the Texas defensive line, as he recorded two sacks in last November’s contest against the Longhorns.