The way the game was played, it was hard to believe each team had a blue-chip prospect starting at quarterback.
Garrett Gilbert, the nation’s third-best quarterback prospect coming out of high school in 2009, according to rivals.com, left the game in the second quarter with Texas trailing, 13-0. He would never play another down in a Longhorns uniform.
BYU’s Jake Heaps, rivals.com’s top quarterback prospect in the Class of 2010, was held to 192 yards on 22-for-38 passing with one touchdown pass and two interceptions in the 17-16 loss to the Longhorns two years ago. It was defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s second game on the job and it was a good one.
Heaps won’t have it as easy when he returns to Austin and faces a new-and-improved Greg Robinson-led Longhorns defense this weekend.
Neither Gilbert nor Heaps is with the team they began their college football careers with – Gilbert is now with SMU while Heaps, heavily recruited by former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, is now playing for Weis at Kansas.
“Quarterbacks usually don’t stay long unless they’re playing,” Texas head coach Mack Brown said. “No one wants to be the backup quarterback, especially if you’re one of the top players in the country coming in.”
Heaps, after sitting out the 2012 season, is getting his second chance as a starter with the Jayhawks, losers of 25 consecutive games against Big 12 opponents. Kansas has lost its four contests in conference play this year by an average of 27 points, with Heaps going 41-for-90 (45.6 percent) for 442 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in those games.
He was held to 16 yards on 5-for-13 passing in a 34-19 loss to Oklahoma two weeks ago and completed only seven of 19 passes for 85 yards in a 59-14 defeat to Big 12 frontrunner Baylor last weekend.
The way Diaz’s replacement, Greg Robinson, has the Longhorns defense playing, Heaps is going to have another rough outing when Texas hosts Kansas in its first home game in six weeks this Saturday.
The Longhorns have held Big 12 foes to 19.5 points per game, the fewest in the conference, and limited TCU to seven points – its fewest in a game in more than seven years.
“What Greg did is he settled the defense down,” Weis said. “They already have a formidable front four to start off with and now they just line up and play. They don’t try trickery or anything like that. They just try to be athletes, rather than trying to move them all over the place. The past several weeks, they’re seldom out of position.”
Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed have evolved into one of the country’s best 1-2 pass rush punches while the Texas secondary is suddenly swarming to the ball and a linebackers group without its leader in Jordan Hicks is doing its part as well.
“He was around and watched us but we didn’t really build a relationship with him until now,” Jeffcoat said of Robinson. “So it took a couple weeks and now it feels like he’s been here for a while. Things are starting to click.”
Gilbert passed for 538 yards and four touchdowns while running for 97 more yards and two other scores in a 59-49 victory over Rutgers last week – good enough to earn him Walter Camp national player of the week honors and give him the FBS lead in total yards per game at 408.3, nearly 20 more than the next closest player.
Heaps, meanwhile, is struggling. And his struggles won’t stop when he faces the stiff ball-swarming Greg Robinson-led Longhorns defense this Saturday.