On the first play from scrimmage, the Texas Longhorns scored a 75-yard touchdown on a long catch and run by senior wide receiver Jacorey Warrick, then gained only 114 yards on the next 38 plays (three yards per play) in a disappointing half against the 1-9 Kansas Jayhawks.
The ‘Horns trailed 10-7 after the opening 30 minutes.
The Jayhawks defense paid for selling out to stop star running back D’Onta Foreman on that first play, but were otherwise able to slow Foreman down — he gained 61 yards on 13 carries, with a long run of 12 yards.
Playing with two back ups along the offensive line didn’t help the ‘Horns, either.
A fumble by senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes in replacement of injured freshman quarterback Shane Buechele gave Kansas the ball deep in Texas territory with a chance to tie the game with just under 10 minute remaining in the second quarter.
When sophomore linebacker Edwin Freeman dropped an interception on a tipped pass, it looked like the ‘Horns had missed a big opportunity. However, a fumbled snap by the Kansas quarterback on 4th and 1 resulted in a turnover on downs for the defense.
Buechele returned to the game at that point after briefly leaving the field and receiving an evaluation for a head or neck injury in the locker room. On the field, the medical staff was testing his neck.
After picking up a first down on a pulled zone read, Buechele threw an interception on his second underthrown deep ball of the game, evidence that something just isn’t right with him following numerous big hits this season.
The defense got the ball back, but Buechele still wasn’t right, throwing another interception on a ball that fluttered badly out of his hand. Kansas tied the game on the 56-yard return, the first multi-interception game of Buechele’s Texas career.
The fumble parade for Foreman continued — the sixth of the season and the fifth lost, giving the Jayhawks the ball with a chance to take the lead. For all of Foreman’s success in 2016, ball security has been a major issue.
Following five straight punts, Sterlin Gilbert’s offense managed four straight turnovers, a remarkable accomplishment.
In fact, head coach David Beaty’s team entered the game with 15 turnovers forced on the season — the Longhorns handed the Jayhawks 21 percent of the team’s total in the span of less than five minutes of game time.
To put that into further perspective, Kansas forced a turnover once every 41.4 minutes until the fumble by Swoopes, then got four in five minutes.
Now that’s a meltdown.
Kansas kicked a field goal with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead.
A false start penalty on third-team center Elijah Rodriguez put the ‘Horns behind the chains and, as has happened all season, Texas was unable to recover to tie the game or take the lead late in the half.
Head coach Charlie Strong’s job hangs in the balance after the listless first half. The ‘Horns will have to overcome a halftime deficit for only the second time in 17 attempts under Strong, all while the offense struggles with an injured freshman quarterback.
Should be fun.