The silence was deafening.
Everything anyone needed to know about the Longhorns’ game against Kansas could be heard in the stands or at home on mute.
A few minutes into the third quarter, Texas found itself up only 14-6 over a lowly Kansas team, and to that point the Jayhawks had played the mighty Longhorns as their equal. A missed field goal and a poorly timed running- into-the-kicker penalty allowed the Longhorns to snag an early lead, but a team that had not won a Big 12 game in 24 straight opportunities played Texas well.
This all changed at the 6:37 mark of the third quarter. With the ball in Texas territory, and the energy and momentum of the game funneling to the Jayhawks, the Longhorn front four made a play.
Junior defensive end Cedric Reed swooped in off the edge, with senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat forcing his way around on the other side of the line. The pair converged toward Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps, and when Reed arrived first, he delivered a punishing blow, knocking the ball out of Heaps’ hands. That’s when opportunistic senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley scooped up the ball, and, using his high school feature back talents, streaked towards the end zone untouched.
The defense’s touchdown sparked the Longhorns 21-0 run, and flipped the direction of the contest, placing the game out of reach for an overmatched Kansas squad.
“It changed momentum completely,” head coach Mack Brown said. “Somebody had to step it up and make a difference in the game and change their momentum in the second half, and then after that it really wasn’t a game.”
But that’s part of the issue for Texas. It never should have been a game against Kansas. The Jayhawks rank last or second to last in nearly every major statistical category among Big 12 teams. Texas hasn’t fallen to Kansas since 1938. But for the second season in a row, the Longhorns skirted dangerously close to being upset.
Texas should not have allowed Kansas into the game. The Longhorns are infinitely more talented; Being their first home game in 44 days, the team should not have lacked for energy. The players denied an absence of effort early, but Brown could only speak for himself after the game.
“I don’t know,” Brown said. “You’d have to ask them. There’s a whole bunch of them, so when you say energy, that covers a big group. My energy was good.”
The Longhorns aren’t good enough at this point to take teams lightly. Brown called this a “true trap game,” and he was right. But Texas can’t afford performances like these. Against any other Big 12 team this showing would have resulted in a loss.
It certainly would against the last three teams on the Longhorns’ schedule: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor — all of whom are ranked. But that stretch is still a week away. First, Texas must travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia for the first time. And if this game is a forewarning, the Longhorns better be ready to play.