For the second time this season, fans at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium left feeling relieved after watching sophomore kicker Cameron Dicker kick another game-winning field goal. This time, Dicker hit it into the south end zone, gifting both sets of field goal posts with the joy of having a game winner kicked through it in the last three weeks.
As great of a moment it is for Dicker, it’s not about him or his moment. It’s about how Texas got to that moment and what comes next.
Texas was “on the ropes” — as head coach Tom Herman regularly phrases it— for the first 10 minutes. The Longhorns had a blown assignment that led to a 70-yard touchdown, a missed 55-yard field goal from Dicker and then proceeded to give up another score to the Wildcats. The problems Texas had struggled with going into the bye week were rearing their ugly heads again.
But the Longhorns turned it around. They outscored Kansas State 27-10 for the remainder of the game and walked off the field with their sixth win of the season.
“Teams that (aren’t together, don’t love each other, splintered and selfish), they splinter, and it turns into a blowout,” Herman said. “They wave the white flag, and it could have been a really, really bad scene in DKR.”
Texas was able to right the ship primarily off the strength of its defense. For the first time all season, the defense was able to hold a Power Five opponent to under 30 points. A big reason for that was the return of sophomore safeties B.J. Foster and Caden Sterns.
“We showed y’all that this is what happens when (we’re) fully healthy,” freshman defensive lineman Keondre Coburn said. “This is a very great team, unbelievable team, and that's what we did.”
Coming into the Kansas State matchup, Texas had focused on its leadership throughout its program. One of the key leaders Herman says to be overlooked is senior defensive lineman Malcolm Roach. Herman said Roach’s vocal presence was evident throughout the game — he even offered him a coaching spot once his playing career is over.
“This means a lot to him,” Herman said. “He has the ability to relate to everybody in that locker room. That things that he says are very passionate, but also very poignant.”
His leadership isn’t evident to only Herman. It is felt by everyone on the team.
“Roach is leading everyone everywhere we go,” Coburn said. “Before every drive, touchdown everything, he gets in there. … Roach leads from pregame meal to after the game, and that's a great leader to me.”
Behind Roach’s leadership and Dicker’s kick, Texas is now bowl eligible with its sixth win of the season. For a team that won the Sugar Bowl last year, being bowl eligible isn’t the standard. Once again, however, it’s about how they got to that point.
“That’s not our main goal, to be bowl eligible,” senior wide receiver Collin Johnson said. “But what I do think is important is how we responded after the loss to TCU. We can go to directions. We can go backward or forward. And I'm just proud of this team’s fight, choosing to go forward because that's a choice. And so today felt real good.”