AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas program has been down so low for the past three seasons, just making a bowl game would feel like a victory in itself.
The Longhorns inched a bit closer to that goal Saturday night with a 42-27 win over Kansas, a tougher-than-expected result that left first-year coach Tom Herman fully aware that nothing about the post-season is certain for a team with two tough games left on the schedule. Texas hasn’t played in a bowl since the 2014 season.
“Winning for us right now is going to be hard and that’s OK, as long as we win,” Herman said. “(A bowl) is something that our seniors truly deserve.”
Texas (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) made the big plays it needed early against Kansas (1-9, 0-7) then did just enough to keep the Jayhawks from repeating their shocking upset win last season that ultimately doomed then-Texas coach Charlie Strong, who was fired barely a week later.
Shane Buechele connected with Lorenzo Joe on a 49-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and the Texas defense forced four first-half turnovers in a 42-27 win over Kansas on Saturday night.
Antwuan Davis returned a first quarter interception for a touchdown and Toneil Carter and Lil’Jordan Humphrey added scoring runs as Texas built a 35-17 lead by halftime.
Texas set up three first-half touchdowns with turnovers and ended another Kansas drive in the end zone with an interception. Carter Stanley passed for 268 yards and three touchdowns, but had three turnovers in the first half. The Jayhawks (1-9, 0-7) have just three Big 12 wins over the past seven seasons.
Buechele passed for 249 yards.
Kansas: The Jayhawks had been shut out in their previous two Big 12 road games, but fought to stay in this one if not for the disastrous first half of turnovers. The defense even knocked around Buechele and dropped an interception that would have been a sure-fire touchdown. Of Texas’ first four touchdown drives, only one started beyond midfield.
“I think we left a lot of chances out there,” Kansas coach David Beaty said. “I’ll say this about Carter Stanley: that might be one of the toughest cats I’ve ever been around. They knocked the fool out of that guy today. He is bleeding from every part of his body, and he gets up.”
Texas: The Longhorns offense still struggled for long stretches and the defense had one of its more uneven outings in weeks, giving Herman something new to worry about in a late-season fight for a bowl game. The secondary clearly missed suspended cornerback Holton Hill, who will not return this season. A change at kicker resulted in another missed field goal.
Enduring yet another woeful season, Kansas came in looking for any spark of life. The Jayhawks tried an onside kick at the start of the game. It was easily smothered by Texas’ John Burt and the Longhorns were quickly up 7-0 when Buechele found Joe wide open with a deep throw across the middle.
Davis’ touchdown interception return was the Longhorns’ fifth of the season, tying a school record last accomplished in 2000. It was also the senior’s first career interception. Despite its struggles on offense much of this season, Texas has scored seven non-offensive touchdowns. Davis also recovered a fumble that set up a second quarter touchdown and got the interception that killed a promising Kansas drive late in the second quarter.
“All I could see was the end zone. I saw the whole D-line blocking,” Davis said about his weaving sprint to the end zone on his interception.
“When you’re playing to win, scoring points on defense and getting turnovers, that’s a big part of that,” Herman said.
Kansas plays No. 5 Oklahoma next Saturday.
Texas plays at West Virginia next Saturday with a chance to earn a sixth win to become bowl-eligible.
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