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Inside the Numbers: Rushing offense and defense big for Texas against KSU

The Longhorns were dominant in the trenches and on the ground on both sides of the ball.

Kansas State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

It wasn’t the prettiest outing of the season, but the No. 7 Texas Longhorns did enough to top the No. 23 Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday and secure their best nine-game start since the 2009 season.

The Wildcats were red-hot on both sides of the ball heading into the matchup, going two full games without surrendering a touchdown and outscoring opponents 82-3 over that stretch. After a lopsided start, it turned out to be the slugfest everyone predicted it would be, with the usual suspects contributing to the outcome, both positively and negatively in the matchup.

Jonathon Brooks: 22 car., 112 yards (5.1 ypc), TD

It feels like another universe in which we were asking the question, “How will Texas replace Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson?”

While many had faith that Jonathon Brooks would be a solid solution for Texas, few thought the rusher would be this good for the Longhorns and become one of the best running backs in the nation. With his 112 yards against the Wildcats, who held their two previous opponents to 113 yards apiece, Brooks eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for Texas just nine games into the season.

Following Robinson’s two exemplary seasons, Brooks has officially made it a streak for Texas, returning the university to its legendary roots as RBU.

From 1995 to 2005, the Longhorns fielded a 1,000-yard rusher every season, a list that includes Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson, but saw that streak end with Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young splitting carries in 2006. Charles put Texas back in that category the following year, but then Texas went nearly 10 years until D’Onta Foreman cracked the mark with his legendary 2016 season.

As a team, the Longhorns eclipsed 230 yards rushing — the most surrendered by the Wildcats all year — continuing the theme of Texas pushing the Wildcats around on the ground, regardless of who is in the backfield.

In the five years playing against Wildcats head coach Chris Klieman, the Longhorns have eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark in every matchup, with Saturday’s performance actually clocking in as the third-best performance against KSU in that stretch. For three consecutive years, Robinson and Johnson terrorized the Wildcats on the ground, a trend continued by Brooks and CJ Baxter on Saturday.

With that, you have to credit the offensive line for their performance in the game managing without Christian Jones, who was sidelined due to an injury.

The Longhorns held the Wildcats without a sack and to just three tackles for loss against a unit that was averaging five tackles for loss and 1.8 sacks per game heading into the contest. It marks just the fifth time that Kansas State has been held without a sack in the last five seasons, with Texas achieving it in back-to-back years.

Texas defense: 32 rushing yards (1.1 ypc), 7 TFL, 3 sacks

While the Texas defense gave up a ton through the air, it’s hard to discount the impact that the defensive line had on the game.

The final play of the game, with Barryn Sorrell and Byron Murphy forcing Will Howard to abandon the pass and toss up a prayer, was emblematic of how impactful the defensive front was all game, forcing Kansas State to go against trend and try to win through the air.

Finishing the game with 32 rushing yards, the Kansas State streak of 100-yard rushing games that dating back to October of 2021 came to an end, while their 1.1 yards per carry marks the lowest yards per carry total for the program since the 2015 Alamo Bowl against UCLA. What’s perhaps more impressive is that even if you add back in the 22 sack yards to the total, it’s still the worst Kansas State performance since they managed just 41 yards against West Virginia in the 2020 season.

Texas has been nothing short of elite getting into the backfield against the run as of late, with 27 tackles for loss over the last three games. That marks the best three-game stretch for Texas since the 2020 season when they had 28 against Oklahoma, Baylor, and Oklahoma State.

Linebacker Jaylan Ford led the charge in the contest for Texas, with 1.5 tackles for loss, with T’Vondre Sweat nipping at his heels with one. Ford, who is coming off of an All-American season, has already tied his season total from a year ago, with at least four games left on the slate for Texas.

Third downs: KSU 2/14 (14.3 percent), Texas 2/15 (13.3 percent)

It was an ugly day all around on third downs, which has been an unfortunate trend for Texas as of late, but a glaring differentiator for the Longhorns defense taking on what was one of the best in the nation.

Heading into the game, Kansas State ranked No. 4 in the country in third-down conversions, keeping the chains moving on 54.95 percent of their attempts this year. In fact, the Wildcats were coming off of back-to-back games converting north of 70 percent on the money down, looking to continue that trend against Texas. It seems like the Longhorns took that as a challenge, holding the Wildcats under 40 percent — something that previously happened just once this year.

It was something fans should have expected from a Texas defense that held four previous opponents under 30 percent this year, including 21 percent against BYU a week ago and blanking Kansas to close out the month of September.

Speaking of something that should have been expected, the Texas offense once again struggled on the money down, coming into the game No. 62 in the country and not doing much to improve its standing.

Converting on just two third downs all day, it’s the worst performance — both in number and in percentage — since their 1-of-13 performance a year ago against TCU. Part of the issue for Texas was its inability to set itself up for success on the crucial down, finishing with an average distance to go of 8.2. In fact, Texas had just four third-down attempts of four yards or shorter, converting on two of them, with a 27-yard rush from Brooks on a 3rd and 3 as the longest third-down play of the day.

If you remove that chunk play from the average, which is still a paltry 3.8 yards per attempt, Texas would have gained an average of just 2.4 yards per third-down attempt.