Ehlinger, Longhorns adopt ‘playoffs’ mindset going into Kansas

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

Sam Ehlinger doesn’t remember Texas’ 2016 loss to Kansas, but Chris Brown does.

The then-redshirt freshman didn’t travel to Lawrence, Kansas, that week. Instead, he lay on his bed and watched the Longhorns jump out to a 7-0 lead on the first play of the game. Brown didn’t take the one-win Jayhawks seriously and went to sleep. The defensive back was shocked to see that Kansas pulled off a 24-21 upset when he awoke hours later.

“It was a rude awakening,” Brown said in a Tuesday teleconference. “You can’t take nobody lightly, no matter how good you are, no matter how bad you think someone is. You don’t play well enough to win, (you will) lose.”

The Longhorns are no longer the miserable 5–7 team that lost to Kansas for the first time since 1938, though they’ve struggled to compete on a national scale. Texas hasn’t lost to the Jayhawks since the 2016 upset but has played two close games since. 

The game in 2018 saw Kansas furiously rally in the fourth quarter to come within one score with less than a minute remaining, though the Longhorns ultimately kneeled out the clock. Last season, then-sophomore kicker Cameron Dicker kicked a game-winning field goal to lift Texas past the Jayhawks as time expired.

“We know we’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” senior quarterback Ehlinger said in Tuesday’s teleconference. “We have to give everybody our best shot, regardless of records or what’s happened in the past. We’ve got to be focused on that.”

 

Kansas hasn’t had a winning season since 2008. Its 21 total wins in the 2010s were the fewest by any FBS Power Five school. But senior defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham knows Texas may face the Jayhawks’ best shot again. 

“I think if Kansas is prepared and they go out there ready to play, they have a chance to beat anyone on their schedule,” Graham said in Tuesday’s teleconference. “They’ve got Division I football players … like everyone in the Big 12. I feel like if they’ve prepared and they go out there ready to play, they can beat anyone.”

Ehlinger said the Longhorns have adopted a “playoffs” mentality for the rest of the season. If Texas wins out its regular season schedule, it could still find its way to the Big 12 Championship game. A loss would effectively end any hopes Texas has of winning the conference and qualifying for a New Year’s Six bowl game. 

Ehlinger said the team has to view Saturday’s game against the winless Jayhawks “just as big as the next one.” He said the Longhorns have the chance to notch another win and build momentum down the stretch of their schedule, and next week’s game against Iowa State and the following game against Kansas State will not matter if Texas can’t handle business in Lawrence. 

“If Kansas is a better team and they play better, then they certainly have the right to beat Texas,” Ehlinger said.