McLane Stadium

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Dominant defensive performances aren’t anything new for Texas this season, but freshmen running backs Toneil Carter and Daniel Young are.

As the Longhorns headed down the tunnel following their victory in Waco Saturday afternoon, not many people in McLane Stadium looked twice when the scoreboard read Texas 38, Baylor 7.

It wasn’t the score that jumped out. It was who did the scoring and how they did it –– on the ground. Texas’ run game, which has been absent for the majority of the season, finally gained a glimpse of traction in the Longhorns’ victory over winless Baylor.

But it wasn’t the 250-pound junior running back Chris Warren III who put the Longhorn running game back on track. It wasn’t even sophomore Kyle Porter, who sat out for the second-straight game due to injury. It was two freshmen: Toneil Carter and Daniel Young, who have seen limited playing time thus far, and even spent time on the scout team.

“Those kids get better everyday. It’s incredible how hard they work and how hard they run,” junior linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “They were scout team at one point and now they're starters and trading in and out. I commend them for everything they're doing. They've been patient with it and let the process take care of itself and you see the success they had on the football field.”

Neither Carter nor Young broke the century mark in the blowout victory, but both proved efficient. Young averaged 8.6 yards per carry after bouncing out to the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown which gave Texas its 38-7 lead in the final moments of the fourth quarter.

And he wasn’t the only freshman running back who had a breakout performance. Toneil Carter averaged 4.7 yards per carry and emerged as the Longhorns’ leading rusher –– just the second time this season a non-quarterback has led the team in rushing.

“They broke tackles, which was encouraging to see,” Herman said. “They slivered around in there when things weren't blocked perfectly … I was proud of them. They protected the football which is always a concern when you're playing true freshmen at running back but I loved what I saw.”

The Longhorn offense wasn’t clicking early, especially in the first quarter where Texas’ only points came after junior defensive back DeShon Elliott returned an interception for a touchdown.

The offensive woes peaked in the second quarter after the defense recovered a Baylor fumble inside the red zone. The Longhorn offense not only failed to get in the endzone, but also saw the field goal attempt blocked to keep the score at 7-0.

However, once Buechele and the offense found its rhythm, it didn't look back. The Longhorns went to the quick-tempo offense early and often. And it not only led to points, but also confidence.

“When we can go fast, it helps a lot with our offense especially just keeping the defense off the field,” Buechele said. “They played a lot of snaps today, they played unbelievable. It was really good to see our running backs and offensive line work the way they did. “

The Longhorn offense now looks forward to its next challenge: a road test against No. 10 TCU. But even after the win Saturday, the 4-4 record is still in the back of some players’ mind.

“It sucks,” Jefferson said. “Because we should be a lot better honestly. But we’re not gonna play like we’re 4-4. We’re still gonna play like we're contending for something.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

Hours before his team took the field at McLane Stadium in Waco and routed a winless Baylor team, 38-7, head coach Tom Herman had already seen exactly what he needed to see.

For a team coming off back-to-back, gut-wrenching losses, with its season teetering on an unstable pendulum, Texas could not afford to look past the now 0-8 Bears.

“We had talked all week about this being the most important game of the season,” Herman said. “Not because of what had really happened in the past or who we were playing or what their record was but the fact that it was the next one.”

And so at 5:45 a.m. at Texas’ team hotel, Herman saw words put into action.

“I was shocked,” Herman said. “A 5:45 a.m. wake-up call — there was no dopey-eyed guys, there was no ‘wipe the sleep out of their eyes.’ None of that stuff. They were intense and ready to go from the word ‘jump.’”

In a game that they could not afford to lose, the Longhorns (4–4, 3–2 Big 12) wore down Baylor with another solid defensive outing coupled with a relatively steady offensive performance.

The Longhorns’ defense came up huge on just the third play from scrimmage.

Baylor quarterback Zach Smith’s pass over the middle on third-and-8 was a little high as it tipped off of his intended receiver’s hands, which left safety DeShon Elliott in the right place at the right time. The ball fell right into Elliott’s hands for his team-leading sixth interception of the season. The junior returned it to the house for a touchdown to put the Longhorns up 7-0 early.

From there, Texas stayed in control in a game that was never really close.

“I don’t know if you can get started any better than that,” senior safety John Bonney said. “We took that momentum that DeShon gave us and just kept rolling with it the rest of the game.”

Texas took a 21-7 lead into halftime after two more touchdowns in the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele — who made his third start of the season in place of injured freshman Sam Ehlinger — scrambled to find sophomore wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass.

Later, after a fumble by Baylor punter Connor Martin set the Longhorns up at Baylor’s own 28-yard line, Buechele kept the ball on a zone read, sprinted up the middle and raced past Baylor defenders for a touchdown, putting Texas up 21-7. Buechele even sprinted all the way up the tunnel in the northeast corner of McLane Stadium.

“He showed us a little speed,” senior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe said. “He kept on running through that tunnel. We started joking around calling him Forrest Gump. That was big for him.”

A couple of freshman running backs helped put things completely out of reach in the second half. Toneil Carter and Daniel Young each dashed for touchdowns, and junior kicker Joshua Rowland tacked on an 18-yard field goal to help the Longhorns shut the door in Waco.

While Saturday was a step in the right direction for the Longhorns, it was a small one in the grand scheme of things. But Texas avoided what it couldn’t afford to do — suffer a colossal letdown against a struggling opponent — and handled business. Next Saturday is another big one, as the Longhorns head to Fort Worth for a showdown with No. 10 TCU.

Asked after the game where he thinks the Longhorns are headed with four games left on the schedule, Herman avoided any bold prophecies. He just stuck to his mantra.

“Oh, I don’t know. I just want to go 1-0 this week,” Herman said. “The big picture is irrelevant right now.”