AUSTIN, Texas — The list of Big 12 victories for Kansas over the past seven years is short. Painfully short.
West Virginia, Iowa State and … Texas.
Last season’s shocking win over the Longhorns effectively ended Texas coach Charlie Strong’s tenure, dooming him to be fired barely a week later. The program turned to Tom Herman, who is now having his own struggles this season.
The Jayhawks have played better at times this season, but have just one victory since upsetting Texas and are still at the bottom of the Big 12. The Longhorns (4-5, 3-3 Big 12) and Jayhawks (1-8, 0-6) meet again Saturday. Texas is fighting to get bowl-eligible and Kansas would love to drive a stake into another Texas season.
“I miss that feeling that we had” after beating Texas last season, said Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. “I’m looking forward to getting that feeling again soon.”
Beating Texas was certainly the high point so far for second-year Kansas coach David Beaty.
“It’s an opportunity to see if that was real. I mean, you do it once, how about we do it twice? I think that’s the approach, as I hear our guys talking,” Beaty said. “You want to prove something, you have to go do it more than one time.”
A year ago, Texas players rallied around Strong after the Kansas loss, but it wasn’t enough to save his job. Under Herman, the Longhorns still find themselves in a late-season struggle just to reach a bowl. Texas hasn’t played in a bowl since the 2014 season and hasn’t missed a bowl game for three straight years since 1991-93.
“I haven’t made a bowl game in my college career, and it’s important that we get the seniors out to get a bowl game,” Longhorns junior linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “The expectation is a lot different than we expected it to be this year, so very frustrating, but you can’t give up.”
Herman said just getting to a bowl game would be a big step for the program.
“I think anything better than previous years has to be considered somewhat of a success. It’s called improvement,” Herman said.
Some things to watch for when Kansas plays at Texas:
QUARTERBACK CAROUSEL: Quarterback has been a surprising quandary for Texas, which didn’t start the season expecting one. Injuries have forced Herman to alternate Shane Buechele (ankle and shoulder) and Sam Ehlinger (concussion), but neither has been able to lead an offense that has rapidly regressed over the last three games. Herman was even asked this week if emergency quarterback Jerrod Heard should start against Kansas.
“The issue with him is always going to be dependent on the health status of the other two,” Herman said.
RED ZONE EFFICIENCY: The Jayhawks don’t score a lot, but of 24 trips into the red zone, Kansas has scored 23 times, among the best in the nation. If only they scored more touchdowns. Of those trips, only 14 have reached the end zone. Nine were field goals.
SECONDARY TROUBLES: Texas will be without junior cornerback Holton Hill, who was suspended for the rest of the season for an unspecified violation of team rules. Hill had scored three defensive touchdowns this season and had two interceptions.
MONSTER IN THE MIDDLE: Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. ranks No. 1 nationally in solo tackles at 8.4 per game and will be key for the Jayhawks against a Texas running game that has struggled badly in recent weeks. He also averages more than two tackles for loss per game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Texas special teams have been a mix of outstanding and terrible. Australian punter Michael Dickson is making a strong case to be an All-American with his 49-yard average, but kicker Josh Rowland is really struggling. Rowland is 7 of 14 on field goals and has only one longer than 40 yards.