No. 15 Texas moves ahead, focuses on Kansas

Field Level Media

October 16, 2019 at 4:22 am.

Halfway into the 2019 college football season, both 15th-ranked Texas and Kansas are about where pundits expected them to be. But the Longhorns and Jayhawks will have plenty to prove, and improve on, when they meet in a Big 12 contest on Saturday evening in Austin, Texas.

The Longhorns (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) have flirted with being very good in losing only to LSU, ranked No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll, in Week 2 and fifth-ranked Oklahoma last week, both by just seven points.

Texas was thoroughly outplayed by the Sooners in their annual Red River Showdown in Dallas, but kept it close enough to make it interesting at the end and to save some face against its biggest rival.

“It was the first time that I can remember that we got out-physicaled on both sides of the ball,” Texas coach Tom Herman said Monday. “That’s not us. I’m obviously disappointed in everything — in the way that the game unfolded and the way that we played.”

There has to be some hangover from the loss to Oklahoma — even for a Longhorns team that lives with its “1-0” mantra in each drill of every practice and each snap of every game.

“Our guys were eager to get back to work (Sunday),” Herman said. “(We had) good energy at practice. Obviously, there’s a lot of things that we can learn from that game and need to improve on. We have completely turned the page as a team, and our sole focus, as it should be, is to do everything within our power to beat Kansas.”

The Longhorns, who have constantly battled injuries this year, especially on the defensive end, lost two more starters against the Sooners. Safety Chris Brown broke his right forearm and will be out for at least six weeks after surgery, and linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch dislocated his shoulder and will not play this Saturday.

That puts the Texas defense at an even bigger disadvantage. Through its first six games, the Longhorns are surrendering 453.3 yards per game, and are on pace to allow the most yards per outing in school history, breaking marks set in 2015 (452.6) and 2016 (448.2).

The Longhorns have given up 310 passing yards per game, which would also be the highest total in school history by a large margin. The record is 277.8 ypg allowed in 2007.

Kansas (2-4, 0-3) heads to Austin after its first bye week of the season and on a three-game losing streak, most recently falling to Oklahoma 45-20 at home on Oct. 5.

After that game, coach Les Miles fired offensive coordinator Les Koenning, and replaced him with Brent Dearmon, who had been on the staff as a senior offensive consultant.

“I thought the initial hire (of Koenning) was the best hire,” Miles explained when asked last week about the move. “I felt like that there needed to be change. Les did a strong job — I think he worked hard. We just needed a change. A change philosophically, as I saw it.”

Through one week, Miles said he’s liked what he’s seen from Dearmon and how his players are responding to their new coach.

“I think they’ve enjoyed the idea that there’s a guy that has youth and enthusiasm and energy,” Miles said Monday.

Jayhawks quarterback Carter Stanley said the offense under Dearmon is somewhat like fast-break basketball.

“I almost kind of feel like a point guard at times,” Stanley said. “Based off a defender I’m putting the ball here or here. It feels like you can’t really be wrong, which is a really good feeling.”

During the first half of the season, Stanley has thrown for 1,175 yards and 12 touchdowns with just four interceptions. His 148.0 pass efficiency rating ranks sixth in the Big 12.

It remains to be seen how the midseason change in offensive philosophy will affect the Jayhawks, especially against the wounded, but powerful, Longhorns.

“Getting healthy is the (most) important thing and just getting better each day at practice,” Kansas running back Pooka Williams said. “We just need to keep playing as a team and stop focusing on individual spots. When we come together as a team, we score on every possession.”

Texas has won nine of the past 10 meetings against the Jayhawks and is 15-3 overall. The Longhorns have never lost to Kansas in Austin (8-0).