Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz sent the second-team defense in for Kansas’ final drive. His starters took the field instead.
“We kind of all snuck back on the field,” said freshman defensive back Quandre Diggs. “We wanted that shutout. We all went back on the field to make sure there was a goose egg on that scoreboard.”
And that’s exactly what they did. The Jayhawks got their third and final first down before turning the ball over on downs, allowing the Longhorns to preserve the shutout and a 43-0 win over Kansas on Saturday at Darren K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The defense turned in its best performance of the season, stuffing Kansas for -2 rushing yards and just 46 yards overall.
“It was huge for them to get a shutout,” said head coach Mack Brown. “Those seniors were going to back out there. I told them if they had gone in there and gotten hurt, we would have had a discussion. But it was okay. I was happy for them.”
Texas was just as physical on the offensive side of the ball, with Malcolm Brown running for 119 yards and Joe Bergeron picking up 136 to become the first freshmen duo to run for more than 100 yards in school history. They both scored twice to pace a ground game that racked up 441 yards, the Longhorns’ highest total since 2004. Senior Fozzy Whittaker had 68 yards on nine carries and junior receiver Marquise Goodwin pitched in 52, making the most of his five carries to help Texas surpass its goal of 300 rushing yards. Even junior Jeremy Hills, who ran for 31 yards on six carries during Texas’ last possession, took advantage of an opportunity to shine against an atrocious Kansas run defense.
“Running the ball was our game plan for the week,” Malcolm Brown said. “We focused on it a little bit more, and the offensive line did a great job of getting the push, and we kept pounding the rock.”
A rushing attack of that caliber made David Ash’s job a lot easier. The freshmen was more efficient in his second career start, going 14-of-18 and scoring on a 2-yard run after having trouble against Oklahoma State two weeks ago. Ash still made some mistakes, taking a sack for a 20-yard loss and throwing an interception trying to find D.J. Grant in the end zone. But he threw just four incompletions, 14 less than he had in his last game, making crisper throws downfield and benefitting from an effective screen game.
“He made some good decisions out there,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “I thought he managed the game well. He was seeing what we needed him to see. The sacks and interceptions — when we eliminate those, we’ll be headed in the right direction.”
Texas’ offensive outburst was not surprising considering it was facing a defense that gave up more yards than any in the country. But the Longhorns were not expected to blank a Kansas offense that averaged more than 30 points in its first seven games. Jackson Jeffcoat got his first sack of the season, as did converted running back Chris Whaley, and Alex Okafor had two tackles for loss, forced two fumbles and also notched a sack.
“It was big,” Jeffcoat said. “It is very special when you can do something like that.”
With Texas having the ball for more than 44 minutes, its defense was on the field for just 36 plays, providing the defense to pitch its first shutout since 2005.
“We were talking about how we should scrimmage tomorrow,” Diaz said. “It was unbelievable watching them chew up the clock. We’re hard to score on when we’re on the bench.”
With Texas Tech, Missouri, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Baylor left on the regular season schedule, Saturday likely marked the last time the Longhorns will conceivably pick up an easy win. And it was about as easy as it gets.
Printed on Monday October 31, 2011 as: Ground and Pound