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Texas vs. Kansas: Five observations and Sunday chat

The Longhorns got back in the win column yesterday against the Jayhawks in Lawrence.

Texas v Kansas Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Texas Longhorns took the show on the road this weekend and went about their business against the Kansas Jayhawks up in Lawrence. Texas was coming off a disappointing performance against a top five ranked TCU in Austin and needed to put it behind them in a hurry to prepare for a team that came into DKR last year and dropped a 50 burger on them on the way to securing a win in overtime.

Texas needed this win this game for multiple reasons. They needed to win this game to avoid dropping two in a row to Kansas. Not much more needs to be said there. Secondly they needed to win this game so that they could continue to show that the program is heading in the right direction on the field. It’s a lot easier to try to sell that vision if you are playing for win number eight this week than say win number seven with a potential 6-6 record staring you in the face.

The Jayhawks had their starting quarterback Jalon Daniels return to the lineup just in time for the Longhorns to roll into town. Daniels suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the season that had kept in sidelined for a good portion of the season. Longhorn fans probably had flashbacks of what Daniels did last year in Austin, when he accounted for four touchdowns in the overtime victory for Kansas.

The good news for Texas fans is that the Longhorn football showed up ready to play in the bitter Kansas cold and they showed the Jayhawks that they were not the same team they beat last year down in Austin.

Bijan Robinson and the Texas run game dominated

Last week the Texas running attack never got out of neutral against TCU. It was by far the worst game of season for a rushing attack who has been able to run it pretty consistently for most of the season with it being led by Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson.

Steve Sarkisian clearly came into the game with the plan of running the damn ball and his offense executed that plan with a very high success rate. The Jayhawks entered the matchup having one of the worst rush defenses in the country and they were absolutely overwhelmed trying to slow down the Longhorn run game.

Johnson got banged up early and exited the matchup, but it didn’t matter because Robinson proceeded to show everyone why he is going to be RB1 on draft boards in 2023.

25 carries for 243 yards and four touchdowns for Robinson and if Sarkisian wanted to be a jerk he could have easily gone north of 300. Kansas didn’t have a single answer to stop Robinson and mean that literally. Robinson was never stopped for a loss or no gain on any of his touches. He absolutely embarrassed the KU defense on his way to a career day in yards and touchdowns.

And it wasn’t just Robinson who got in on the action either. With Johnson out, redshirt freshman Jonathon Brooks got extended looks and was able to crack 100 yards rushing on 11 touches, which was highlighted by a 70-touchdown run.

The running backs will get the glory, but you know I am going to highlight the effort up front by Kyle Flood’s bunch. The Texas offensive line absolutely mauled the Kansas defensive front to the tune of 427 rushing yards. It was an absolute clinic and it warmed my heart to see the freshmen offensive linemen getting them a piece of the action clearing the way for Brooks in the fourth quarter.

Fantastic effort all around here.

The defense turns in another solid performance

I’m not going to lie to you. When I saw the whispers that Daniels would likely be playing this weekend I got a little uneasy knowing how well he was playing pre-injury and with what I saw him do last year against Texas. When he is out there under center for the Jayhawks, they are a very functional offense and they have the ability to put points on the board. Kansas hasn’t had many quarterbacks worth talking about over the years, but Daniels is certainly one of them.

The Texas defense carried over their effort from last week and certainly did behave like the defense that was having flashbacks of the 2021 matchup. While Daniels turned in an efficient performance through the air, the Texas defense made he and the Jayhawks offense work hard for just about everything they earned. The Longhorns defense held KU to 4-of-11 on third downs and turned them away twice on fourth-down attempts. They consistently got off the field and got the ball back to the offense to allow them to wear down KU’s defense and continue to put them in a big hole.

On top of forcing two turnovers on downs, linebacker Jaylan Ford added another interception to his All-Big 12 resume by victimizing Daniels on a bad decision. Ford continues to play at a high level and has himself in the conversation for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

The Texas defense conceded only 14 points on the day with both coming in the second half when the game was pretty well in hand and backups were in the game. They didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver and kept Daniels to a modest 230 yards passing on the afternoon.

This was another solid all around performance for Coach PK’s group and they continue to show growth and promise in year two under his watch.

Steve Sarkisian dialed back the Texas passing game

It was clear from the beginning of the game that Sarkisian wanted to lean on his run game and take a lot off the plate of his young quarterback this week given his well documented struggles. Quinn Ewers’ stat line was nothing to write home about (12-of-21 passing, 107 yards, one TD), but he did deliver some timely passes that allowed drives to be extended. He also did a good job of not forcing passes and played a clean game by just taking what he was given from the defense.

Sarkisian wanted to take the pressure of Ewers and put it on the backs of his future NFL running backs and the offensive line. It was a highly successful plan that was executed at a high level and shows that Sarkisian isn’t going to let Ewers continue to just bang his head against the wall on throws he hasn’t been able to consistently hit this year. I think I recall one deep shot thrown by Ewers all day and it was a ball that was ultimately dropped by Xavier Worthy.

While I am sure many wanted to see Ewers get out of his funk this week, it was clear that Sarkisian had a plan built around the run game this week and that allowed Ewers to take a back seat and not have all the pressure on his shoulders.

Baylor will provide a stiffer test against the run this week, so it will be interesting to see how the Texas offensive staff goes about game planning for the Bears.

The offense made the most of their possessions

Last week the Texas offense struggled mightily to keep drives alive and when they did make it into the red zone they couldn’t execute to take advantage. Those struggles did not follow them to Lawrence yesterday, as they turned in one of their best offensive performances of the season.

The Longhorns offense was forced to punt two times all game long by the Jayhawks and in between those punts they put together NINE scoring drives. The drives resulting in punts occurred on their first and last drives of the game.

The Longhorns maximized and made the most of their offensive possessions and they did not relent until the game was well within hand late in the second half of the ball game. By the time this game was over, Kansas’ body language screamed that they didn’t want to be there anymore. Texas stayed aggressive and left little doubt who was in control of this ball game. Sending Bijan over the top of the pile on the goal line at the end of the first half was where the game basically ended.

For the entire second half we got to watch the the bench get emptied and see guys get live bullet reps on the road late in the year. It was refreshing.

Longhorns atoned for last year’s overtime loss

Kansas has won two games against Texas in the last decade after not having a win against the Longhorns since 1938. Those losses have been the origin point for a lot of jokes amongst national media and rival fan bases, so it goes without saying that Texas wanted to right the wrongs of the loss that occurred last year.

Mission accomplished. Yesterday’s beatdown resembled the Texas-Kansas games we had grown accustomed to seeing over the years where the Longhorns flexed their talent and depth superiority over the Jayhawks early and often.

This game was never close on the field or on the scoreboard and that’s exactly how it needs to be if Texas wants to get back to being the Texas of the early 2000s. Even with KU’s uptick in talent at certain spots, Texas controlled this game from start to finish and never let the Jayhawks gain any kind of confidence.

This was a good, sound beating and now the Longhorns will turn their focus to another familiar foe that has proved to be a problem for them over the recent years.

The Baylor Bears are up next. The Longhorns have a chance to keep their slim Big 12 title hopes alive and can get to eight wins in the regular season to show some real progress in the W/L column. Shorter week with the game being on Friday, so the team will need to refocus and try to add one more notch in their belt before the postseason.