North Texas

Senior receiver John Harris is one of four fifth-year seniors making an impact for the Longhorns, with 247 receiving yards and three touchdowns this season.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

In some ways, senior wide receiver John Harris’ story is the same as that of many of his teammates. 

A fifth-year player, an injury delaying his college progress, and a breakout season so far: All of these attributes apply to some of Harris’ teammates, such as linebackers Jordan Hicks and Demarco Cobbs and punter and place-kicker William Russ.

And yet, Harris finds ways to stick out. He had made just nine catches in his entire career up to this year’s season opener. And after Harris posted seven receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, many had the same question about Harris: Is he the new star on the team? 

“I wouldn’t say that at all,” Harris said. “I’m just one of the guys they look up to and one of the guys that they can trust and go to.”   

However, Harris’ teammates and coaches tout his play a little bit more.

“His mindset has completely changed,” Hicks said. “They gave him an opportunity, and he took full advantage of it … I think everybody knew he had it in him. Nobody is surprised at the numbers he’s putting up and his ability. He’s a very explosive wide receiver.”

Harris has proved his explosiveness through three games this season. Recording 19 receptions and 247 yards, Harris also became the third player in program history to score touchdowns in each of the first three games of the season. His plays against UCLA were likely the most significant, as he captured an 8-yard touchdown catch on third-and-goal late in the fourth, and a 33-yard pass on fourth-and-8 to enable Texas’ first touchdown drive that put the Longhorns up 10-3 at the half. Harris said he saw his team’s potential against the Bruins, but he was disappointed with the end result.

“This one hurt a lot,” Harris said. “We had that game right there, so it hurts everybody in the locker room especially. It was a hard loss for us. The heartbreak is there — that hurts. It hurts bad.”

But Harris isn’t the type to dwell on regrets when he can instead work toward improvement. He sees the near win against UCLA as “breaking through a wall” — proof that the skills are there even if the luck is not. As he looks to capitalize on the bye week to improve, it won’t be the first time Harris has translated adversity into motivation this season. When head coach Charlie Strong told Harris last spring that he needed to improve to stay on the team, Harris met the challenge head-on.

“I told [Harris] — what, two or three days ago — I said, ‘You remember the conversation we had?’” Strong said after the North Texas game. “[Harris] said, ‘Kind of gave me a wake-up call.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, and you needed that because you’re very talented, and you’re going to have this football team.’”

Harris is still developing as a starter, getting a feel for his catches and trying to eliminate mistakes. But he’s determined to keep progressing, taking advantage of the starting position he’s been seeking.

“I was always told that a lot of people don’t get second chances,” Harris said. “And so, when you do get a second chance, you have to take the opportunity and grasp it. My brother told me, ‘Go out there, and just take it, and go get it when you have the opportunity.’ I thought about that, and just took it in, and just did it.”

After the Longhorns were routed 41-7 by BYU, Strong and senior cornerback Quandre Diggs have noticed that some players are still not buying into Strong’s message.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

After taking care of business in the season opener against North Texas, the Longhorns were routed by BYU for the second consecutive season. Now, with three matchups against top-15 teams, Texas wants the full effort of every team member to get back on track.  

The same Texas team that took the field against BYU will play in Arlington against No. 12 UCLA this week, barring any last minute changes to the suspensions of four Longhorns, all of whom are potential starters. Head coach Charlie Strong noted, while most of his team has bought into the core values of his new program, those serving suspensions still seem not to get the message.

“Well, when you look at it, you have 95 percent of your team doing it the right way,” Strong said. “And then you have 5 percent, and you say to that 5 percent, ‘Why can’t you do what Malcolm Brown does? Why can’t you do what Johnathan Gray does? Why can’t you buy in?’”

Strong believes the suspended players could help the team on the field if active, but, at the same time, those players haven’t earned the privilege to contribute on game days.

“You get frustrated because you look at a talented group of players that you have to suspend that could really be helping this football team,” Strong said. “But who knows if they can be? Because they can’t even do the little things we ask them to do.”

Senior cornerback Quandre Diggs agrees that those who can’t follow coach Strong’s way have been a serious detriment to the team.

“Not only are they hurting themselves, they are also hurting us as a team,” Diggs said. “You know it’s a lot of guys that aren’t playing here or even just not playing. They really hurt. And you know, I just really don’t understand it. How can you just go let your teammates down? Let your families down? That’s something I wake up with and know I’m blessed with each and every day. And I just wish guys take advantage of that.”

Diggs sees the problems on this team expanding past just those who have been disciplined by the coaching staff or dismissed from the team. Ultimately, he thinks it comes down to each player just giving his complete effort in each game and buying into the program and the values coach Strong has instilled.

“Anybody that doesn’t do their job are letting us down,” Diggs said. “If you are suspended, you are letting us down because you are not playing. If you’re not going out and taking advantage of the opportunity that you have, you are letting us down because you are not doing your job.”

Though Texas may struggle without the suspended players, Strong is not willing to compromise his program for the small percentage of players who won’t conform to his ideas.

“We will never become them; they are going to become us, and that’s just the way it is.” Strong said.

About $20,000 in concession sales were unaccounted for after the Aug. 30 football game at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

According to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey, two nonprofit groups arrived to sell concessions during the game against the University of North Texas but left at the end of the day without submitting their sales.

Sam Wells, director of media relations for Sodexo, the company in charge of the stadium’s concession sales, said they follow certain procedures for coordinating with nonprofit groups. 

“There’s usually a supervisor who’s responsible for overseeing nonprofit sales groups and making sure sales are turned in at the end of the day,” Wells said. 

Posey said the theft is still under investigation and did not provide any information on whether UTPD will take precautions to prevent a similar situation from occurring at future games. 

According to Wells, the stadium earns about $3 million per year in concession sales from its combined sports.

Wells said a range of nonprofit organizations, including church groups and marching bands, staffed concession stands last year and contributed $500,000 to the total earnings. 

Girl Scouts concessions coordinator Stacy Knight, who oversees concession sales for the Girl Scouts of Central Texas, said the money her troops earn from selling concessions at University football events is turned directly into a specific room during and after games.

“There’s a cash room guarded by a security guard at all times, and that’s where we turn sales in after games,” Knight said. 

Nonprofit groups who help with sales usually take home about 10 percent of their profits, while the rest goes to the University, according to Knight.

Knight’s troops set up four stands inside the stadium and typically earn between $1,500 and $2,000 per game.

The promises of an improved defense under new head coach Charlie Strong came to fruition last week, as the Texas defense held North Texas to less than 100 yards of total offense.

But after the Longhorns lost their redshirt senior center Dominic Espinosa, and redshirt junior quarterback David Ash suffered concussion symptoms for the third time in his collegiate career, the defense’s effort against the Mean Green has lost its luster.

So with all the negativity surrounding the Longhorns, how does Texas avenge last year’s drubbing versus BYU?

Texas wins if...

The defense can continue to play at the same high level against a much better opponent in BYU. The Longhorns will be in a position to beat the Cougars if the defense is able to continue to force turnovers as it did against North Texas. 

Offensively, the Longhorns need to continue to use their running backs. Senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray must pound the ball and break off a few big gains to open up the play-action pass for sophomore Tyrone Swoopes. 

Swoopes needs to manage the game and not do too much. He doesn’t need to be superman; just a quarterback than can get the job done.

Texas loses if...

BYU and its junior quarterback, Taysom Hill, play as well as they did against UConn in week one. The Longhorns will face an uphill battle, and they might find themselves with a second consecutive loss to the Cougars if they can’t contain the Cougars’ high-octane offense.

While the defense shined in its first game under Strong, Hill and BYU provide a much stiffer test. Strong called Hill a Heisman candidate, and if Texas can’t shut him down, it’s going to be a long night in Austin for the Longhorn defense.

As for the offense, if Swoopes struggles and the offensive line doesn’t improve from last week, a victory will elude the Longhorns.

QB

Advantage: BYU

Taysom Hill completed an underwhelming 53.9 of his passes last season, but he erupted for 259 rushing yards against the Longhorns. The junior completed 77.8 percent of his passes against UConn last week, suggesting that his passing has improved since last season.

Tyrone Swoopes has the tools of an All-American, but the sophomore has been inconsistent in his brief appearances for the Longhorns, and his 38.5 percent career completion percentage will not suffice against BYU. 

RB

Advantage: Texas

Junior Johnathan Gray and senior Malcolm Brown showed they can carry the offense, after rushing for a combined 147 yards in the season opener.  The new-look offense’s use of a fullback should create space even if the Cougars plan on loading the box to force Swoopes to pass. 

1,000-yard rusher Jamaal Williams returns to the Cougar backfield after a suspension. Cougar running backs still topped 100 rushing yards against Connecticut in the junior’s absence.

WR

Advantage: Texas

Redshirt senior John Harris broke onto the scene by snagging 110 yards and a touchdown against North Texas. Junior Marcus Johnson’s speed should resurrect the deep passing game this week.

The Cougars lost three starters from last year’s group, but the lack of a clear number one wideout means three receivers, including Mitch Mathews, create a balanced attack for BYU.

OL

Advantage: BYU

Last year, BYU’s offensive line paved the way for 150-plus yard rushing performances against Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Talented freshman left tackle Ului Lapuaho allows senior De’Ondre Wesley to move to right tackle, where he is a more natural fit. 

The injury to center Dominic Espinosa and suspension of tackles Kennedy Estelle and Desmond Harrison could ruin this unit for the Longhorns. On the bright side, Swoopes should be on the same page with Jake Raulerson, thanks to their time together on the second team. 

DL

Advantage: Texas

The Mean Green ran almost all of their outside zone reads away from senior Cedric Reed, but the Longhorn defensive end still fought off double-teams to disrupt the run game, and redshirt sophomore Hassan Ridgeway, a first-time starter, tallied two sacks for Texas.

The BYU group is relatively inexperienced, but a crop of talented freshmen alongside Remington Peck, redshirt junior defensive end, make this one of the Cougars’ deepest position groups.

LB

Advantage: BYU

The Cougars lost top playmaker Kyle Van Noy to the NFL. Nonetheless, the inexperienced group showed its talent by holding UConn to a paltry 2.3 yards per carry in the season opener.

Texas brings back the same trio of linebackers that gave up 550 rushing yards to the Cougars last season, but new defensive coordinator Vance Bedford appears to have already generated drastic improvements from this bunch.

DB

Advantage: Texas

The Longhorn secondary struggled last season, but they turned in a two-interception performance against North Texas, and senior cornerback Quandre Diggs showed he is not afraid to get in the box and stop the run.

Senior safety Craig Bills anchors the BYU secondary. Senior cornerbacks Robertson Daniel and Jordan Johnson also return to a unit that held opponents to 218.9 passing yards per game last year.

ST

Advantage: BYU

The Cougar special teams unit struggled in coverage last year, and senior kicker Trevor Samson, transfer from Fresno City College,  missed his only field goal attempt against UConn. Redshirt junior Adam Hine adds explosiveness to the return game, but it’s more a case of Texas’ special teams being worse than BYU’s being better.

A missed field goal, short punts and uninspiring returns defined the Longhorns’ inexperienced special teams performance against UNT. Junior Nick Rose kicked five touchbacks however, and punt coverage only allowed only 3.5 yards per return.

After two straight seasons being sidelined with injuries, redshirt senior linebacker Jordan Hicks is ready to return to his role as a defensive leader on the team. Hicks is set to lead his squad as one of Texas' most experienced players this season under new head coach Charlie Strong.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

There is no Longhorn position group as interesting as Texas’ linebacking corps.

From fifth-year senior starters to some of the lesser-known reserves, each linebacker has an interesting story to tell.

There’s junior Dalton Santos, who didn’t play much in his first two years on campus but made national headlines this spring when his Twitter plea went viral. Santos sent out a tweet in April to try to raise money for his mother, who didn’t have health insurance and needed open heart surgery to fix an aortic aneurysm. The fundraiser quickly spread across the country and wound up raising $66,000 to help pay for the operation. The surgery went as planned, and Santos’ mother, Vista, is doing well.

Or, how about senior Steve Edmond, who has flown under the radar in his first three years at Texas, despite having started 22 games and recording 192 tackles over that span? Edmond, a Daingerfield native, nearly had his senior season shortened before it even started after he and fellow linebacker Jordan Hicks faced possible suspensions stemming from a meal that had been paid for by an agent. In the end, Edmond was cleared by the NCAA and won’t miss any time this season. He opened the year with five tackles against North Texas.

Fifth-year senior linebacker Demarco Cobbs has started just six games since arriving at Texas in 2010. Cobbs, a Tulsa native, played sparingly as a reserve and on special teams in his first three years as a Longhorn, before missing all of last season with a knee injury. Cobbs is a backup again this year but made the biggest play of his lengthy career Saturday, recording his first ever interception and taking it to the house for a defensive touchdown.

“Demarco [Cobbs] and I sat and talked about this night for a long time,” said Hicks, who has roomed with Cobbs since they were freshmen. “Coming off of injuries — both of us — we’re both very blessed to be in the situation that we’re in.”

But of all the “backers,” as they like to be called, Hicks has had the wildest ride at Texas. Coming out of high school, Hicks, a product of Cincinnati, was ranked as the best linebacker and fourth-best recruit overall by ESPN. After an underwhelming freshman campaign, Hicks hit his stride in his sophomore season, but then the injury bug got him. He earned a medical redshirt after missing 10 games in 2012, but 2013 was hardly any better, as he continued to be plagued by injuries and missed nine more contests. 

In the middle of all that, Hicks was accused of sexual assault after he allegedly had non-consensual sex with a 21-year-old woman at a San Antonio hotel prior to the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl. Charges were never filed, and the case was closed by the San Antonio Police Department a couple weeks later.

Hicks enters his fifth season at Texas, looking to write a storybook ending to what has been an eventful collegiate career. He’s well on his way to doing just that after recording eight tackles and his first career interception against North Texas.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” Hicks said. “It’s just awesome to be able to be back out on the field with everybody and be able to play. Playing the game — it feels like it’s been forever.”

Their stories are all different, but finally together and healthy, Texas’ veteran linebackers appear poised to be a strong unit.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

A dominant effort by the Longhorn defense has given Texas a 21-0 halftime lead over the North Texas Mean Green at Darrel K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Walk-on safety Dylan Haines and veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks both recorded interceptions and the Longhorn defense held the Mean Green to just 31 yards on 27 plays in the first 30 minutes.

Offensively, the Longhorns struggled to get in rhythm early on, failing to score on each of their first two drives. But senior running back Malcolm Brown finally got the Longhorns on the board with 4:06 to go, plunging over the right side of the offensive line for the score.

Senior quarterback David Ash, who started the night just two of six through the air, found his stride in the second quarter, leading the Longhorns on two more touchdown drives.

First, Brown plunged in for his second score of the game and then Ash took it in himself to give the Longhorns a three-score lead heading into the locker room.

DENTON, Texas - After a strong Texas Invitational, the Longhorns struggled in the Judi Garman Classic over the weekend, winning only one game while giving up 22 runs and leaving 45 runners on base.

Texas reversed that trend in game one of a double header with North Texas, posting a six run first inning en route to a 10-2 win.  In the second game, junior pitcher Gabby Smith kept the Mean Green at bay, giving the Longhorns a 2-1 win.

“It was a tale of two games,” head coach Connie Clark said. “Those are great for our experience as we get geared up and ready for conference.”

The Longhorns (16-3) got off to a fast start in the first game of the day with the first four batters reaching base. After Davis grounded out to put Texas up 2-0, freshman left fielder Stephanie Wong hit a three-run homer to right field and senior catcher Mandy Ogle followed with a solo shot to extend the lead to 6-0.

“It was tremendous,” Clark said. “We’ve been so close and had opportunities. At some point the game starts to pay you back”

That would be all the support Davis would need in the circle. She struck-out a career-high 13 batters and allowed only three hits. The only blemish for Davis came in the fourth inning when she gave up a double and walked three batters to allow the only two North Texas runs of the game.

Clark said she was glad to have Davis back after a minor injury kept her out of the final game of the weekend.

“She felt great today and ready to go and I thought that was significant,” Clark said.

The second game was quickly turned into a pitchers duel. North Texas’ Madison Thompson and Texas’ Gabby Smith held the offenses scorless through the first four innings. Sophomore second baseman Stephanie Ceo ended Thompson’s no-hit bid in the fifth with an infield single and then scored on a double to right by senior shortstop Taylor Thom. In the sixth, sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens hit her tenth home run of the year to extend the Texas lead to 2-1.

In the bottom of the seventh, however, the Mean Green (16-7) rallied for a comeback attempt. With two on and two outs, Brooke Foster drew a walk to load the bases and Spencer Ferrell hit an infield single to trim the Texas lead to 2-1. But Smith came back to strike out Danielle Hoff on four pitches to end the game.

Clark said that it was big for them to get a close win after coming close in those situations all year.

“We absolutely need that,” Clark said. “It’s good to get that feel and be able to win a tight one.”

The doubleheader was the end of a seven-day road trip for the Longhorns. After a tough walk-off loss to Long Beach Sunday, Texas flew straight to Dallas. Clark said being away from home for so long worried her going into the game.

“I was concerned about flying in yesterday and having to play two games today,” Clark said.

Texas now heads back to Austin for a three game series against Iowa this weekend.

North Texas authorities are searching for three suspects they say participated in a shooting at a house that left a 12-year-old dead and a sleeping teenager injured.

Fort Worth police announced Monday that a high-powered rifle was among the weapons used in the June 1 shooting. They say at least two suspects exited a vehicle and fired on the home. James Hardemon was standing in front of the home and was shot multiple times. He died two days later. A 16-year-old sleeping inside also was shot. A number of people inside, including two children, were unharmed.

Police say 23-year-old Daniel Anderson was arrested last week. He's being held at the Mansfield jail on $100,000 bond. There's no online jail listing for a defense attorney.

Authorities did not identify the three others being sought.

North Texas:
Brejae Washington’s inside-the-park home run followed Stephanie Ceo’s two-out RBI to usher in Texas’ 9-1 win over North Texas. Freshman Holly Kern pitched a one-run complete game with six strikeouts.

Memphis:
Despite not scoring in the first four innings, the Longhorns triumphed over Memphis Saturday in a 4-0 shutout to enter the semifinals undefeated. Gabby Smith pitched her first career complete game, relying heavily on her defense.

Semifinals vs. A&M-Corpus Christi:
With a shutout, along with a home run and three RBIs, Kim Bruins led Texas into the championship game with a five-inning, 8-0 victory over the Islanders. The Longhorns, after scoring five runs in the third, scored in the final three innings as well. Their four extra-base hits brought their season slugging percentage to .556 amidst the afternoon drizzle.

Championships vs. North Texas  
After a shaky two-run, first-inning deficit, Texas recovered in the second as Mandy Ogle’s fifth career home run plated three en route to a five-run inning that saw Texas record five straight hits. Though a sixth-inning scare allowed the Mean Green to come within one, Blaire Luna’s final inning shutout captured Texas the Texas Classic Championship.

By the numbers:  
68: Brejae Washington’s stolen base career total, a Texas record
160: Taylor Hoagland’s career runs total, six away from Lexy Bennett’s school record (166)
6: Runs the Longhorns scored during the second inning of Friday’s North Texas match-up
28: Blaire Luna’s strikeouts for the Texas Classic
16: Two-out runs the Longhorns scored in their first four games