If you missed this one due to ESPN's inscrutable rollout strategy for the Longhorn Network...don't feel like you got cheated out of an exciting and aesthetically pleasing viewing experience. This wasn't a bad effort by any means, but it was the kind of workmanlike effort against an over-matched opponent that likely inspired more than one mid-afternoon nap across Longhorn Nation.
It was a pedestrian start for the Horns offense - Case managed a few short completions before rifling Red Ryder BB'ing an interception to the Jayhawks' free safety while looking for Daje Johnson. The pass lacked zip and wasn't perfectly aimed, but Daje's skinny post wasn't exactly Vlasic Pickle-crisp, either. Daje's 16-yard catch on the next series added a little zest, but the drive ended with a dollop o' derp as McCoy threw a pass after crossing the line of scrimmage to force a Fera punt.
The natives began to get restless as a third drive stalled out in Longhorn territory. Fortunately, Anthony Fera's luscious punting thigh proved too tempting a target for one of the Jayhawks special teamers, and he lunged into it to provide Texas with a fresh set of downs. Getting the ball in Daje's hands was an obvious point of emphasis, and he caught a couple mixed with good gainers from Malcolm Brown before McCoy-to-Shipley 2.0 got Texas into the red zone and set up Brown's first TD plunge.
From there, it was basically making license plates.
Case had a reasonable afternoon. His delivery on deep balls still begs for its own ESPN Sports Science episode, and it looked like he'd run out of Moxie as now-patented sideline throws couldn't come close to connecting with Mike Davis. Fortunately, his chemistry with Marcus Johnson continues unabated, and he dropped yet another sideline shot in the basket to Johnson to set up a 3rd quarter TD. I'll give him half the blame on his first INT, and the second was basically a punt on 3rd and long as he got smacked on the release. Case isn't going to elevate this offense on anything like a consistent basis, but when he's supported by a strong run game and doesn't have to chase the score he can dial up the accuracy, dial down the derp and keep on winning.
Tyrone Swoopes got to attempt actual passes in this game - three of 'em, in fact! He also logged his first passing yard as a Longhorn, so congrats Tyrone! Two games into his Longhorn career he has still accrued next to no meaningful experience, and if you think he's getting playing time on the road against WVU or against any of our ranked foes down the stretch then I'd like to welcome you as an obviously new member of the Longhorn family. We've gained no meaningful preparation for Swoopes should McCoy get injured, and this is shaping up to be an unconscionable shirt burn.
It's looking more and more like Malcolm Brown will be the hammer that delivers that consistent run game. Brown was Texas' offensive MVP in this one, with a solid assist from Hopkins, Hawkins and Espinosa. Malcolm got consistent room to run on left side of the offensive line and translated it into 6 yards a pop and a career-high four TDs. His top gear is nothing to write home about, but he's got the power/balance/burst/vision combo to be an upper-echelon college back. He's also a much better bet for staying ahead of the chains than Johnathan Gray. The ankle tackle thing has lost some of its humor for me at this point, and against our tough slate down the stretch I feel better about Malcolm's ability to consistently produce solid runs than waiting for the two times a game where Gray can break the line of scrimmage absolutely untouched.
Shipley was our biggest yardage-maker among the wideouts, but the most interesting story from that position was the dedication to getting the ball in Daje Johnson's hands. Daje was targeted more than anyone in the pass game today, hauling in seven "catches" (though a couple were basically forward handoffs on jet sweep action). While he failed to break a big one today, he continues to draw a ton of defensive attention and his action crossing the formation helped to spring a couple of nice runs for the tailbacks. With Case regressing to the mean on deep throws this wasn't going to be Mike Davis' day, but he's still our best deep threat and defenses can't sleep on his savvy ability to work by opposing corners. Not even a regression could stop the emerging magic of McCoy-to-Marcus, and the freshman notched yet another highlight reel reception while already adding another notch to Darrell Wyatt's belt.
The O-line didn't dominate, but they generated a fairly consistent push and gave Brown and Gray plenty of nice escorts to the second level. Donald Hawkins in particular had a nice day, and Brown's best runs came when Hawkins completely set the edge and allowed Malcolm to turn the corner clean and burst upfield. Short yardage was a mix of good and bad, but it was fun to see Texas' heavy jumbo alignment grade the road. Case got sacked once, hit on his first INT and had to scramble a couple of times, but on the whole the pass protection was up to the group's usual high standards. Geoff Swaim continues to be an excellent blocker, and Greg Daniels is finding more success blocking in space than he ever did when trying to stalemate 260-lb DEs on Pin n' Pull last season. The ability of guys like Swaim and some of our other H-back/F-back options to come across and hit an end can make that Slice Zone play (the one where Gray burst for 21 yards in the second quarter) a winner for Texas down the stretch.
The Longhorn defenders had trouble both early and late with Kansas' runners on the edge on both sweeps and screen passes, with the defensive left looking particularly porous early. They got that squared away thanks to some alignment changes, and outside of some late runs once the issue was decided Kansas couldn't really get anything going.
Kansas couldn't get much joy running inside, and again Malcom Brown was a major reason why. Capable of standing up guards to stack and shed, shooting into the backfield or running down plays away from him, Brown has become a major force inside. Whaley also had some nice moments, and got another Banquet highlight reel play when he scooped a Jake Heap fumble and rumbled to the end zone to effectively seal the game by putting Texas up 15. Jeffcoat and Reed continue to show why they're the conference's best DE tandem, and despite getting caught inside a few too many times on Weis' favored edge runs they both showed well in the ground game while keeping plenty of heat on Heaps.
Those edge runs also bedeviled Edmond and Santos on more than one occasion, but both did a solid job in pursuit and did good work in taking on blocks. Santos' instincts make him fun to watch, and he delivered more than one wicked hit while demonstrating acceptable pursuit speed. Edmond is starting to look like an average-ish linebacker, which is an almost unbelievable turnaround from where he was against BYU. It's looking like they're our go-to pair in our base nickel, and we're surviving quite nicely in that look.
The secondary more or less got to take the day off, as Kansas' passing game is absolutely atrocious. It was disappointing to see Duke Thomas get cooked on third and forever at the end of the first half, but outside of that play Heaps barely managed a hundred yards with running backs accounting for half of that total. It was nice to see Leroy Scott get in the mix, and our secondary seems much more accepting of its run support role than it did early in the season. These guys' big tests are yet to come, and their ability to hold up on the outside against Baylor, Tech and OSU is absolutely vital to Texas' Big XII Title hopes.
We gave up another frustrating 35+ yard kick return, but other than that Special Teams did their job. Daje got loose for a couple of good gainers, and outside of drawing a penalty Fera got to relax with a lone punt and five extra points. It still doesn't feel like we're getting the consistent advantage that our athletes should afford us on special teams, but we're getting there.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It's hard to fire your six shooters in the air after a workmanlike win over a dreadful opponent, but it was good to see Texas shake off some early doldrums and win this one convincingly. We got out healthy, and another week of good reps under a legitimate defensive scheme is all to the good. Swoopes' usage is pretty disappointing, but other than that the team is playing about as well as you could expect given where we're at with personnel and our September travails. On to Morgantown to face a surprisingly game West Virginia squad - may we create rage-filled couch burnings rather than joyous ones.