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Big plays help pace Texas Longhorns offense in Kansas Jayhawks victory

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The future was once again on display for the Horns offense on Saturday night.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Longhorns play caller Jay Norvell set the tone against the Kansas Jayhawks on the first offensive play from scrimmage.

Needing a big play to get redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard going and combat a disturbing trend of losses under head coach Charlie Strong when the opponent scores first, Norvell called for a play-action post route to freshman wide receiver John Burt, knowing that a positive play early could dictate Heard's performance for the entire game.

The young passer talked this week about the need to control safeties with his eyes and he got the deep safety to chase senior wide receiver Daje Johnson across the field on a deep crossing route, opening up the middle of the field for Burt's post route. Maligned for not going over 100 passing yards since the Oklahoma State game, Heard delivered the ball on time and to the hands of Burt, whose strength helped him break a tackle and find the end zone.

Just like the team overall depends on big plays early to win games, Heard is the same way.

"He needed that," head coach Charlie Strong said after the game.

"The thing about him and once he gets going and once he -- if it happens, if it's positive for him early, then you're going to get positive results from him. Just to see him bounce back. And once he made that first throw, then you just knew that he was going to be on point."

The play will go into the Texas record books as the ninth-longest passing play in school history, the second-longest throw by a freshman quarterback, and the third-longest catch by a freshman wide receiver.

It was Burt's first touchdown since a similar 69-yard touchdown catch against Rice in the second game and marked the first time he's gone over 36 receiving yards since catching four passes for 65 yards against Cal. There were opportunities in previous games where the protection broke down or Heard waited too long before delivering the football, but Burt's effort provided another reminder that he can be a dangerous, high-upside threat in the vertical passing game. There's something special about his ability to eat up cushions and his hands have been as consistent as advertised.

The offense wasn't done producing big plays though -- sophomore running back D'Onta Foreman took a zone-read handoff early in the second half and bounced it outside behind good blocks from senior left guard Sedrick Flowers and freshman left tackle Connor Williams. And junior tight end Caleb Bluiett and his brother, sophomore wide receiver Armanti Foreman. And then he was gone.

As if there was any doubt remaining that the 241-pound Foreman possesses the game-breaking ability lacked by senior running back Johnathan Gray, running away from the Kansas secondary and the showing an impressive inside/outside cut that avoided the final defender able to stop the run should have removed any of that.

Foreman finished with two touchdowns and 157 yards on 12 carries. Gray finished with 22 yards and a long run of five yards on seven carries. The 93-yard run was the third-longest in school history and was the first run of 90 or more yards by the Horns since Chris Gilbert's 96-yard touchdown against TCU in 1967.

Can Foreman just take over the first-team duties there already?

All Kansas caveats apply, of course, but the sophomore back already has two of the 11 longest runs in school history, with the first coming in a rivalry game against an opponent that is posting an impressive season otherwise.

Since Foreman looks recovered from the foot injury that limited him to six yards on two carries against Iowa State and Heard recovered from the ebb of his confidence in that game, even the competition level can't diminish the historical significance of what Texas accomplished on those two big plays and what that big-play ability means for the program's future.