Austin, TX — In search of its first win since Sep. 13, the Kansas football team traveled to Austin, Texas, to take on the no. 15 Texas Longhorns. With a 0-8 record all-time at Texas, the Jayhawks’ special team’s mistakes led to the fifth loss of the year as well as to the third straight loss at the hands of the Longhorns with a final score of 50-48.
Entering off the bye week, the Jayhawks looked to start fast on defense and give new offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon a chance to operate with some momentum. But on their first possession of the game, junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger and the Texas offense had seldom issues maneuvering the ball down the field. Lasting just six plays and ranging 65 yards, freshman running back Roschon Johnson punched it in from 14 yards out to give the Longhorns a 7-0 lead just over two minutes into the contest.
In the first offensive series for Kansas, the 10th-ranked defense in the Big 12 committed two costly penalties to gift the Jayhawks 30 free yards. Without much production, Kansas made it deep enough into Texas territory for a field goal. Sending junior kicker Liam Jones on for a 45-yard try, the left-footer pushed the kick wide left, resulting in his third miss of 2019.
Punishing the Jayhawks for their failure to capitalize on the mistakes, the Longhorns marched their way down in a hurry and collected the second touchdown of the game on a 10-yard catch and run from freshman wideout Jake Smith.
Trailing 14-0, the start couldn’t have been much worse for Kansas.
But like it had done in the win at Boston College over a month ago, a switch was flipped. Creating more space for sophomore running back Pooka Williams Jr., the Louisiana-native erupted for a 65-yard dash to put Kansas back into Texas territory. Though unable to make it a one-score game, Jones redeemed his first miss and connected from 23 yards out.
On the defensive side, D.J. Eliot’s unit faced a crucial moment on its third series of the game. Struggling to limit the chunk plays, the Longhorns elected to go for it on 4th and 2 from their own 48. Contrary to the previous drives, Kansas got the stop it needed. Senior linebacker Azur Kamara knifed through the line and dropped Smith a yard short of the first down mark. Turning it over on downs, the tides began shifting.
Utilizing the RPO, senior quarterback Carter Stanley and Williams Jr. used their legs to power down inside the Texas 10-yard line. On first and goal from the nine-yard line, Williams Jr. slithered his way between a couple of blocks and dove headfirst into the end zone. Fueled by the defensive stand, the offense put up its first touchdown in the Dearmon era.
Just like the previous series, the defense was tested on another fourth-down attempt. Needing two yards, Ehlinger dropped back to pass. Due to miscommunication on the routes, the hometown kid threw it behind his intended receiver. Handing it back to Kansas with excellent field position for the second time in as many drives, the Jayhawks transitioned to their pass game.
On the first play following the turnover on downs, Stanley dropped a 50-yard strike into the hands of junior wide receiver Andrew Parchment. Torching the Texas secondary, the senior quarterback found sophomore wideout Takulve Williams for a wide-open seven-yard passing touchdown. As Williams notched his first career touchdown, it also gave Kansas its first lead in Austin since 1997.
Storming back from two scores down to take the lead, the game had been upended in favor of the Jayhawks. However, like it had done to start the game, Texas found the end zone quickly and reclaimed the lead on a five-yard pass from Ehlinger to sophomore wide receiver Brennan Eagles.
With seconds left, Jones tried a 37-yard field goal to cut the deficit to one heading into the break. But the attempt was blocked, and the Jayhawks came away empty-handed.
To open the second half of play, Kansas orchestrated one of its best drives of the season. Lasting 14 plays and ranging 75 yards, the Jayhawks jumped back out in front on a nine-yard strike from Stanley to junior wideout Stephon Robinson Jr.
Unlike the game up in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, the defense couldn’t record that one signature stop in the final half. Following the long drive by Kansas, Ehlinger and the Longhorns responded with three of their own on a 39-yard field goal from sophomore Cameron Dicker, tying the game back up at 24.
Forcing Kansas to punt on its next series, Texas topped the opening drive from Kansas and pieced together a methodical series of its own. Picking up six first downs on the drive, Ehlinger hit senior wide receiver Devin Duvernay on a screen pass inside the red zone. Making a few defenders miss, Duvernay slipped in for the score and gave the advantage back to the Longhorns at 31-24.
After another Kansas punt, Texas had control of the ball inside its own 15-yard line with a little over 10 minutes to play. Despite no turnovers up to that point, Ehinger had his first mistake of the night. Trying to throw it over the middle, senior linebacker Najee Stevens-Mckenzie had the ball fall right into his numbers. Snagging his second interception of 2019, Stevens-McKenzie returned it back to the Texas 16-yard line. One play later, Pooka Williams Jr. broke a multitude of tackles and scampered in to cut the score to 30-31.
Already with two special team blunders on the night, the Jayhawks faltered once more. On the extra point, the Longhorns blocked Jones’ kick and returned for two points on the other end. Instead of a tie game, Texas built a three-point cushion with time on its side.
Choosing to pad the lead instead of burn the clock, the Longhorns did just that. Without wasting much time off the clock, Duvernay took the top off the Kansas secondary and hauled in a 43-yard touchdown catch to give Texas a two-score lead.
Going back and forth, the Jayhawks refused to be put away quietly. Running a no-huddle offense, Kansas pushed into field goal range and put faith in Jones again. Overcoming his mishaps from earlier, he connected from 46-yards and cut the deficit back to seven.
Needing one more stop in hopes of getting a chance to tie it back up, the defense delivered. Known for his bone-crushing hits, senior safety Mike Lee laid the boom on Jake Smith and jarred the ball loose. Bouncing onto the turf, the Jayhawks pounced on the ball and took over in Longhorn territory.
Overcoming the odds again and again throughout the evening, Dearmon and the offense pulled off another magic trick. Failing to convert on any fourth downs in 2019, the Jayhawks went for it on 4th and 10 with the game on the line. Floating a ball up to senior wideout Daylon Charlot in one-on-one coverage, the Alabama transfer brought down the catch of the year for Kansas. A few plays later, Stanley tossed another fade, this time to Parchment. Like Charlot, Parchment caught it and kept his feet in bounds. The game would be tied once again, but not for long.
Without mercy, Texas pounded the ball down the field and scored its 46th and 47th point on the night. Needing one last miracle, the Jayhawks would not be going for the tie if they were to score. Working the Longhorn defensive backs in its two-minute drill, Kansas got the chance. After Stanley tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the game to Robinson Jr. from 22 yards out, Kansas kept the offense on the field for the two-point conversion.
Snapping the ball in the shotgun, Stanley surveyed his first options on the play. Suddenly, a wide-open Charlot emerged in the back of the end zone. The senior whipped it to his fellow senior who kept two feet in for the score. Taking the lead 48-47 with 1:11 left, the dramatics were all but over.
Like both teams had done, the Longhorns picked apart the Jayhawk defense for one last push. Getting the ball down to the Kansas 15-yard line, Texas brought on Dicker for the win from 33 yards away. Like he’d done against Oklahoma last season, the sophomore knocked it through as the clock hit zero in the most jaw-dropping Big 12 game of the season.
Next week, Kansas will host Texas Tech for Homecoming. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.