Austin, Texas If the Kansas University football team had played the entire game the way it played the second quarter, the Jayhawks might have left Darrell K Royal-Texas Stadium on Saturday night with their first victory over the Longhorns since 1938.
Instead, the third quarter mirrored the first quarter, Texas dominated both and a couple of huge plays by the UT offense and horrific mistakes by Kansas allowed order to be maintained in the KU-UT football series in front of a crowd of 92,529. Texas 59, Kansas 20. The road losing streak grows to 37 consecutive games away from Lawrence.
Asked if this one hurt a little more than the 62-7, 58-10 and 66-7 losses that dogged the Jayhawks in recent weeks, KU coach David Beaty gave an honest answer.
“It does,” Beaty said. “Because you're there and you go back and look at some opportunities that might've changed things a little bit and you go, 'What if.'”
Images from the Saturday's game between the Jayhawks and Longhorns at Darrell K Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas.
Big plays — UT had four scoring plays alone of 40 yards or more and two that topped 84 yards — and highlight-reel runs by the Longhorns will be all most people remember from this one. But Beaty likely will always remember it — and possibly regret it — for the weird sequence that came at the end of the first half and stole the momentum away from the Jayhawks.
Despite a disastrous start that saw the Longhorns (4-5 overall, 3-3 Big 12) capitalize on a variety of KU miscues en route to a 17-0 lead, Kansas dominated the second quarter.
One of the biggest momentum swings came early in the second quarter, when KU, trailing 17-7, forced Texas to punt and appeared to be ready to gain the upper hand. But the punt from UT's Michael Dickson glanced off the finger tips of KU sophomore Derrick Neal and Texas recovered at the Kansas 17. Four plays later, back-up QB Tyrone Swoopes rumbled in from a yard out for one of his four TD runs on the night and Texas led 24-7.
Beaty, who both believed that Neal did not touch it and thought the UT player who recovered it came in from out of bounds, challenged the play and continued to ask officials about the ruling for several minutes.
“My big thing was that the guy that recovered the ball went out of bounds and came back in,” Beaty said. “It was just such a big point in the game, I wanted to make sure we did it right.”
Officials said replay revealed that Neal did touch the punt and that made the Texas player's journey out of bounds irrelevant.
Despite that mishap, KU responded with a strong finish to the second quarter. Offensively, KU out-gained UT 105-33 in those efforts, and that inspired the Jayhawks' defense to slug it out with the bigger, faster and stronger Longhorns.
After KU defensive lineman D.J. Williams forced a fumble from a scrambling Heard on third down, KU linebacker Marcquis Roberts scooped up the loose ball and ran to the Texas 7 yard line. It marked the second time in the quarter that KU had started in Texas territory, but this good fortune, like the one before it, did not produce points.
“Both of those should've been touchdowns,” Beaty said of the missed opportunities in the second quarter.
After runs of five and zero yards by Ke'aun Kinner (107 total yards on 15 touches) and a two-yard gain by freshman QB Ryan Willis, Beaty elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the one. De'Andre Mann, who earlier scored on a one-yard run and also set up KU's first score of the night with a nifty run to the one-yard line on a screen pass late in the first quarter, was stuffed at the goal line by the Texas defense. Mann again fumbled after being stood up and KU tight end Ben Johnson recovered the fumble. But the rule book says that a fumble that goes forward on fourth down can only be recovered by the player who fumbled.
KU's defense responded by forcing Texas into a three-and-out and the Jayhawks got the ball back with 3:57 to play in the first half, still down just 10.
Willis hit Kinner on a screen pass for a first down and then connected with Shakiem Barbel on three straight passes to put Kansas in the red zone. From there, things got weird.
After killing the clock on first-and-goal from the five, Willis was sacked on second down with around 12 seconds to play. Rather than using the timeout to run a third-down play with the clock stopped, Beaty allowed the clock to tick down to three seconds before calling timeout. From there, he turned to Nick Bartolotta, who missed a 26-yard field goal off the right upright as time expired.
“Ryan was hurt,” Beaty revealed after the loss. “He was barely able to walk in at halftime.... He could barely push off of those legs.”
Because of that, Beaty chose to take what he thought would be the sure thing instead of allowing his injured QB to make a bad decision. It back-fired, Bartolotta missed the kick and the Jayhawks watched another team run away from them.
Despite the rough ending to the first half, Beaty said the team was fired up at halftime.
“Those guys believed,” Beaty said. “I haven't seen our team like that all year. They looked like they thought they were ahead.”
The Jayhawks on the field late in the first half said there was no confusion about what was happening. Tight end Kent Taylor said they did not realize the severity of Willis' injury, but they were aware he was hobbling.
Injury or no injury, Taylor, like his head coach, said this one stung.
“It's extremely frustrating,” said Taylor, who added that Saturday's loss seemed like progress but was not enough to make the team happy. “You play a team like that at their place, you can't have those kind of mishaps. We've gotta learn from that and, next time, make sure we take advantage of those opportunities. You always try to find good things from every game, but the score is the score and we've gotta do better than that.”
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