Jake Heaps has thrown exactly one touchdown pass in every game this season and this will not be Heaps’ first encounter with Texas. He was the starting quarterback for BYU in 2011, when the Cougars almost stole one in Austin, falling to the Longhorns, 17-16. Case McCoy made a few stellar throws against TCU before the three-hour weather delay, but seemed as eager as a child after a thunder delay at a public pool, throwing two ill-advised interceptions. Texas also revealed a new weapon: Tyrone Swoopes.
James Sims is on pace for his second 1000-yard season, and had his best game of the season against Oklahoma two weeks ago, with 129 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore running back Johnathan Gray was six yards away from his third 100-yard game of the season last week against a TCU team that has only allowed two players to reach the century mark all season. Kansas has allowed four, and is allowing 204 rushing yards a game this season. Gray and Malcolm Brown should excel.
Tony Pierson has provided the Jayhawks biggest spark offensively, but a head injury has sidelined him the past three weeks and he likely won’t play this week. Marcus Johnson has emerged as Case McCoy’s main target with long touchdown catches in each of the last two games. Mike Davis, Jordan Shipley and Kendall Sanders also had catches of more than 20 yards against TCU. Throw Daje Johnson into the mix, and the Kansas secondary has their toughest matchup of the season.
Kansas is in the bottom 20 in the FBS in sacks allowed, tackles for loss allowed, and third-down conversion percentage. Much of that responsibility falls on the offensive line, which will have its hands full with a Texas defensive line that has five sacks in its last two games. The Longhorns offensive line did not surrender a sack for the second straight week against TCU and paved the way for Texas to run for 187 yards against the Horned Frogs’ Big 12-best rushing defense. Johnathan Gray could have a record day.
Kansas lost some depth after dismissing junior transfer Chris Martin in June and Marquel Combs, who transferred. They allowed 306 rushing yards last week against Baylor and 235 the week before to Oklahoma. Kevin Young leads the Jayhawks with 1.5 sacks on the year. The Texas defensive line is led by Jackson Jeffcoat, whose six sacks have all come in the last four games. This unit has accounted for a third of the team’s total tackles in the last two games and has helped Texas average six tackles for loss per game this year.
Without Ben Heeney, who has been sidelined with a knee injury the past two weeks, the Texas run game will be even more difficult to stop. Junior Steve Edmond came up with his first interception on the year last week against TCU and leads the linebackers with 10 tackles apiece in the last two games. The Longhorns are allowing 153 rushing yards per game under Greg Robinson but have accounted for only 25 percent of the team’s tackles in the last two games.
The Kansas secondary was torched by Baylor’s Bryce Petty, who had a career-high 430 passing yards and three touchdowns. The game was uncharacteristic of a defense that had only given up 216 yards per game through the air entering last week, but Baylor has been lighting up the scoreboard all year. The Jayhawks will have their hands full again against a very deep and talented Texas receiving corps. The Longhorns are allowing 202 passing yards per game this year and have not given up a touchdown pass in either of their last two games, holding both Oklahoma and TCU to less than 140 passing yards.
One nudge separated sophomore Daje Johnson from his second punt return touchdown of the season, as a block in the back penalty was called on Johnson’s would-be 85-yard score. Johnson has sparked what was a quiet return game but the Longhorns kick-coverage team is still the fourth-worst in the NCAA, allowing 27 yards per kickoff return, including a 40-yard return by TCU’s B.J. Catalon. Kansas allows 20 yards per kickoff return and six yards per punt return. Special teams is the Jayhawks’ silver lining as sophomore kicker Matthew Wyman has hit just five of nine field-goal attempts but did connect on a 52-yard game-winner against Louisiana Tech.