Amid the ups and downs of Texas Longhorns football over the last two seasons, the one near certainty is that the team that scores first will win the game, a trend that looked like it would continue on Saturday in Austin after the Horns took advantage of two Jayhawks turnovers to take an early lead, then looked in jeopardy as the Horns held on for a 24-14 margin.
On a night when Texas honored legendary safety Freddie Steinmark and the 1969 football team by wearing clean throwback uniforms that featured no "TEXAS" lettering on the front, no Longhorns logo at the neck, no numbers on the shoulders, and a 100-year anniversary logo on the helmet, the Longhorns at times looked like a football team worthy of that honor.
The passing attack received a lot of criticism all week, especially from play caller Jay Norvell, but redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard quickly responded, hitting freshman wide receiver John Burt on an 84-yard, play-action bomb on the offense's first play.
Texas then took advantage of two turnovers by Kansas to score two quick touchdowns and race out to a 24-7 lead.
Unfortunately for the schizophrenic, inconsistent Horns, aside from the two long passing plays, the offense struggled to get going, allowing the Jayhawks an opportunity to get back into the game. Texas gained 142 yards on the first three drives, then finished the half with only 190 yards after gaining only 38 over the final five drives.
After stopping Kansas on the first five third downs of the game, the familiar issues returned and a long drive resulted in a touchdown after conversions of 3rd and 5, 3rd and 10, and 3rd and 4.
Ultimately, however, the defense helped avoid an even worse result in the first half by twice holding at the goal line and keeping points off the board. Kansas had the first chance after recovering a bad fumble by Heard at the Texas 7-yard line when he tried to throw the ball away late and had his hand hit the shoulder pad of a defender.
Jayhawks quarterback Ryan Willis stepped out of bounds just before crossing the goal line on a perimeter run on third and goal. Kansas predictably went for it on fourth down, but Texas sophomore safety Jason Hall made a huge play by standing up the running back on the perimeter. Then things got weird -- after Hall's hit, a fumble into the end zone was recovered by the offense, but it was ruled an illegal play, as the the offense can't fumble forward and recover on fourth down, negating the touchdown.
Just before halftime, the offense wasn't able to move the football after the tunover on downs, giving Kansas good field position in Texas territory. More third-down issues hurt the defense and the Jayhawks threatened again by pushing the ball inside the 10-yard line, but the defense held again and the subsequent 26-yard field goal hit the goalpost.
One thing to watch moving forward -- freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson was out for most of the first half with a stomach issue, the third straight week that he's had a similiar illness limit him. What's going on? So far, the staff hasn't offered anything more than that, but with redshirt freshman Edwin Freeman still not back, having to play junior Tim Cole is hurting the defense right now.
Jefferson wasn't much better, though, as he missed several tackles and generally looked a step slow when he did enter the the game on the first half's final possesion.