Longhorns urgently look to salvage momentum, bowl hopes with game against Kansas

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Charlie Strong and the Longhorns have reason to be concerned. Texas’ second-year head coach is at risk of missing out on a bowl game with a 3-5 record. Texas needs to win three of its last four games in order to be bowl eligible.
Photo Credit: Thalia Juarez | Daily Texan Staff

Texas has little room for error.

The Longhorns’ bowl hopes are slipping away with a 3-5 record. The team now needs to win three of its remaining four games to become bowl-eligible.

“I told our guys just look at it as a one-game [season],” head coach Charlie Strong said. “We can’t waste and we can’t blow any more opportunities. We’ve got to take advantage of it.”

The Longhorns look to take advantage against Kansas on Saturday. The winless Jayhawks haven’t beat Texas since joining the Big 12 in 1996. Texas can’t afford to take them lightly after losing to Iowa State last week — a team that had only beaten the Longhorns once before this season.

“In this conference you can’t roll out and beat anyone,” junior tight end Caleb Bluiett said. “You have to prepare for everything that they might throw at you. In this league, on any given day, any team can get beat by anyone… We have to keep our heads
down and grind.”

Texas’ matchup with the Jayhawks is key for salvaging the team’s dwindling momentum, especially on offense. The Longhorns rank No. 122 in passing offense and threw for just 3.9 yards per attempt against the Cyclones.

“We’ve got to throw the ball better,” play-caller Jay Norvell said. “We have capable players, capable schemes. We have to throw the ball better. It’s not rocket science.”

Kansas gives the Longhorns an ideal opportunity to work out their passing issues. The Jayhawks rank No. 127 in passing defense — second to last among all FBS teams — and No. 8 in turnover margin in the Big 12.

Redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard remains the team’s starter, despite an expanding role for junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes.

Heard remains confident, even though he’s failed to surpass 100 passing yards his last four games.

“Really, nothing is different,” Heard said. “I can’t say I Iost my confidence. I’m [not] ever going to lose it. It’s just [sitting] back there and letting it all come to you and [reacting.]”

The Longhorns also hope to re-establish momentum on defense against the Jayhawks, who rank No. 115 in total yardage. Texas’ previously gelling defense took a step back while surrendering 24 points and over 200 rushing yards to Iowa State. Junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway said the Longhorns’ defense can re-attain its mojo through focus and preparation.

“A lot of it is technique and making sure that you’re not doing somebody else’s job, and doing your job,” Ridgeway said. “It’s making sure every day that you’re doing the little things right.”

Texas is urgent to get its season back on track. In must-win mode, the Longhorns will look to play their best football going forward. Their first chance comes against Kansas on Saturday.

“From now on it’s going to be a grind and it’s going to be a fight,” Heard said. “We can’t sleep on Kansas and can’t sleep on the rest of our opponents. We have to come out and give 100 percent every day and get to this bowl game.”