Texas defense bails out its offense against Kansas

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Senior safety Mykkele Thompson and senior linebacker Jordan Hicks work to hold Kansas senior wide receiver Tony Pierson to just three yards. Although quarterback Tyrone Swoopes completed only 19 of 34 passes, Texas' defense dominated the Jayhawks, allowing zero points while forcing four turnovers.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas’ 23-0 loss to Texas on Saturday proved to be the last straw for the Jayhawks, as they fired head coach Charlie Weis on Sunday morning.

But, if it weren’t for such a dominant performance by the Longhorn defense, the Charlie in Austin could just as easily have been the one in hot water.

While the scoreboard displayed a comfortable victory for head coach Charlie Strong and the Longhorns, that wasn’t exactly the case in Kansas on Saturday.

Without some key stops and a couple of timely interceptions by defensive coordinator Vance Bedford’s defense, Texas might have found itself on the losing end of a major upset.

“The guys came up with big plays at the right time,” Strong said of the defense. “Any time you defensively get a shutout, it’s really great for the defense.”

Offensively, the Longhorns weren’t any better than the lowly Jayhawks. Each of Texas’ four scoring drives started inside the Kansas 30-yard line, and the Longhorns only outgained Weis’ offense by a total of 16 yards.

But the Texas defense turned in its best performance of the season, posting the program’s first road shutout since 2005. While the Jayhawk offense isn’t exactly known as a powerhouse, a shutout in conference play is always an impressive feat.

“They had the same amount of time to prepare to put that ball in the end zone as we did to keep them out,” said senior linebacker Jordan Hicks, who recorded his second career interception in the contest. “[The shutout] means a lot to this defense and to this team.”

In addition to Hicks’ interception, senior cornerback Quandre Diggs picked off Kansas sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart in the end zone in the first quarter, preventing a potential go-ahead touchdown for the Jayhawks. Junior cornerback Duke Thomas added two more interceptions for the Longhorns, including one in the end zone to stymie Cozart’s Hail Mary pass attempt at the end of the first half.

“We are attacking the ball, and we are catching [interceptions] and not dropping them,” said Diggs, whose defense is tied for second in the country with nine picks already this season. “The guys on the defensive line continue to work hard and make our job easier.”

The Longhorn defense has been strong nearly all season and single-handedly carried Texas to victory at Memorial Stadium. But with conference powerhouses —  No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 7 Baylor and No. 23 Kansas State — all on the schedule in October, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and his offense will have to do better to pull off any upsets. 

“Our defense has done a really good job, so I think they can hold them as well,” senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley said. “It’s ultimately about the offense right now. We need to match the defense.”