Backed by two interceptions and a long punt return by senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley, the Texas Longhorns took a 13-0 lead into halftime on the road against the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence on Saturday.
Texas managed an early victory in the game by accepting the opening kickoff after Kansas won the toss and deferred to the second half, a marked changed from two weeks ago when senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson mistakenly opted to kick the ball when UCLA deferred, giving the Bruins the ball to start both halves.
After that, it was a turnover-fest early, as Texas senior cornerback Quandre Diggs stopped a potential scoring drive for Kansas by intercepting a pass in the end zone that was tipped by senior linebacker Steve Edmond.
On the ensuing drive, the Horns marched 78 yards on 11 plays, but a fumbled exchange between sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman center Jake Raulerson handed the ball to the Jayhawks deep in Kansas territory.
Two more interceptions by Texas helped keep the Kansas offensive attack off of the scoreboard and gave the ball to Texas in scoring position for the second score, when Swoopes ran for a 7-yard touchdown run on a zone read wrinkle with a lead blocker following an interception and return by junior cornerback Duke Thomas down to the Kansas 13.
Swoopes finished the half 10-of-18 for 108 yards and the one-yard touchdown to junior tight end MJ McFarland, along with five carries for 16 yards and the touchdown.
And Thomas added another interception on the last play of the pass on a Hail Mary immediately after intercepting the previous play that should have ended the half. Sophomore defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway extended the drive and the half by getting flagged for a personal foul penalty when he hit Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart late.
Unfortunately for Texas, other than the long punt return by Shipley to set up the first touchdown, special teams were once again a mess, with place-kicker Nick Rose missing an extra point and then having a long field goal attempt blocked just before halftime that looked to be the fault of his blockers.
And punter Will Russ was inconsistent once again, booming one punt after shanking a 38-yarder that gave Kansas the ball in excellent field position.
It wasn't always pretty, but Texas forced turnovers and scored two touchdowns in the first half against Kansas. For this team, that does represent some steps forward.