Run game, defense lift Texas over Kansas State, 23-9

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Junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, left, celebrates with senior running back Jonathan Gray after Swoopes' third touchdown.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard said Tuesday that Texas wants to be a “run-first, nasty, get-in-your-face offense.” He wasn’t lying.

Texas ran the ball on 76 percent of its plays in its 23-9 win against Kansas State. Senior running back Johnathan Gray ran for his best game this season with 103 yards, while junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes rumbled for all three of Texas’ touchdowns. In total, the Longhorns racked up 274 yards on the ground.

“We’ve always wanted to run the ball,” said Jay Norvell, wide receivers coach and offensive play-caller. “We’ve been patient with it, we’ve stayed with it and that’s a big part of the running game. … Our kids love to run
the football.”

Texas came out pounding the ball from the get-go. The Longhorns ran the ball on 19 of their 21 plays in the first quarter. They followed up with two rushing touchdowns from junior quarterback
Tyrone Swoopes in the second quarter to jump out to a 16-6 first-half lead.

“It’s just kind of smash-mouth football, and everybody loves that,” Swoopes said. “When we go out there, everybody kind of knows what’s going on. Our offensive linemen, the running backs, the tight ends do a great job of blocking. We just go out and do our thing.”

After the run game shined in the first half, the defense controlled the game in the second half. The Wildcats picked up a field goal early in the third quarter, but they failed to score the rest of the contest. The Longhorns excelled at making stops on third downs, holding the Wildcats to a 28.6 percent third-down conversion rate.

Texas’ defense also specialized in creating big plays — something it struggled to do early in the season. The unit collected five sacks and consistently wreaked havoc in the Wildcats’ backfield. The Longhorns also forced a crucial turnover when junior safety Dylan Haines halted Kansas State’s comeback attempt with an interception in the final minutes.

“This is exactly what we wanted to be,” senior linebacker Peter Jinkens said. “At the beginning of the season, things weren’t clicking like they were supposed to. But as the season has gone on, we are where we want to be now.”

Following Haines’ interception, Swoopes sealed the game with three straight runs, netting 52 yards and his third rushing touchdown. He leads the team with five rushing touchdowns this season.

The win marks the first time the Longhorns have won back-to-back games this season. It’s also just the second time the team has won consecutive games under head coach Charlie Strong.  The coaching staff emphasized that the team needed multiple wins to sustain confidence. After winning two in a row, the Longhorns have a foundation to build on heading into their final five games.

“We’re just putting games together,” Swoopes said. “All along we’ve understood we’ve got to execute and put games together. When you do that, you build confidence. Everybody is confident and excited about the rest of the season.”