With the pre-conference schedule behind, them the Longhorns have placed their focus squarely on this week’s Big 12 opener against Kansas State.
“It's a fresh start for us,” head coach Mack Brown said. “Our goal last January was to win the Big 12 Conference championship, and that hasn't changed. Nothing has changed in that regard as far as league competition. That all starts on Saturday night.”
Texas (1-2, 0-0 Big 12) will face a Kansas State (2-1, 0-0 Big 12) team that lost its season opener against North Dakota State, but has since beaten Louisana (48-27) and Massachusetts (37-7).
“Kansas State is a tough team,” Carrington Byndom said. “They’re very physical and they just get things done. They’re very efficient. So we have to take that same mentality into the game and make sure we handle ourselves.”
When the two teams played last year in Manhattan, Kan. the then No. 7 Wilcats won 42-24, on their way to a share of the Big 12 Championship. This year the Wildcats returned just 10 starters but coach Brown stressed that they haven’t changed much.
“They’re new people, but they’re very well coached,” Brown said. “They’re not big risk takers on defense, they just play so hard and they’re very physical...The offense changed a little bit early with a new junior college quarterback, that can throw the ball. But you are seeing a lot of the same stuff come back after three weeks that [K-State Head Coach] Bill Snyder has been a believer in forever.”
Kansas State has won eight of the 13 times the two teams have met, including seven of the last nine meetings the dating back to 1998. The last time Texas beat Kansas State came in 2003. Based on the history one reporter asked Brown if it felt like Kansas State had Texas’ “number”.
“When I was at UNC we always beat Virginia in Chapel Hill and lost in Charlottesville,” Brown said. “It makes no sense that somebody has somebody’’s number...Our message this week has been it’s a physical football team, it’s a well coached football team. We’ve been in the fourth quarter the last two years to win the game and haven’t, so it’s time for us to finish strong.”
The Longhorns enter the game after back-to-back losses to BYU and Ole Miss. The Texas players stressed that the early season adversity has forced them pull together, and continue to work harder.
“You never want to go one-and-two in preseason,” Johnathan Gray said. “We’re coming together as a team, getting ready for conference and getting ready for K-State.”
The players said they can learn from the early season losses, and hope those lesson’s pay off in the long run.
“We’re going to use it as fuel, and make sure we get better,” senior Jackson Jeffcoat said. “Our goal was to win the Big 12, and that’s still in play. That makes this week very important.”
Having had just a week with new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson the Longhorn defenders said the coaches kept the scheme simple on Saturday and they expect the defense to grow this weekend.
“For the most part it went smooth, but we still have to work out some the kinks,” Jeffcoat said. “It’s hard to put in a new defense in a week and learn it all. So there is still stuff coach Robinson will put in. We’ll learn whatever else he has to put in.”
Both Brown and Jeffcoat felt the Texas defense improved against Ole Miss, but it still needs to improve on stopping the run. Jeffcoat says it comes down to playing good option defense.
“It’s just little things in there, people are trying to make plays and miss their job,” Jeffcoat said. “So we have to get back down to technique and do our job.”
After looking back at the tape on the offensive side of the ball, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said he didn’t like the second half of play versus Ole Miss.
“I didn’t like some of the answers that we gave them as coaches in the second half,” Applewhite said. “There were things that we could have made adjustments to or done a better job of. Some execution that could have been better. But overall just the inability to create anything or make anything happen in the second half.”
According to Applewhite the coaches asked themselves some hard questions after the game and evaluated where they could have helped the players more in certain situations. He said he knows this team has the ability to finish games and play a complete game, like they did in the Alamo Bowl last year.
“This team can and does have fight, resolve, and can finish,” Applewhite said. “We’ve got to do it for 60 minutes. There times where we gained the lead versus BYU and Ole Miss. We’ve got to put 60 minutes together as a football team, offense, defense, and no special teams lapses in order to get a win. That’s what happens when you play good opponents. If you don’t put all three phases together and you don’t play all 60 minutes you don’t beat good opponents.”
Mack Brown thanked the fans for the atmosphere with 101, 474 fans last week, and encouraged them to come out and support the team this week.
“Let's make sure we have another great gameday atmosphere,” Brown said. “Continue to support your team. They're trying hard. They need your support.”
The Texas versus Kansas State game will kickoff at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Darrel K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, and will be broadcast on ABC as well as the Longhorn Radio Network.
- The availability of David Ash for the Kansas State game is still too be determined. According to coach Brown he suffered a concussion in the BYU game. The doctor’s are monitoring in a standard protocol that they would follow for any player after a concussion, to ensure the brain trauma has completely healed before he returns to physical activity. Ash attended Sunday’s walk through practice, but is still being evaluated by doctors to determine if he can practice or not. Daje Johnson (Ankle) will not be available for Saturday’s game. Mike Davis suffered an ankle sprain versus Ole Miss and will be evaluated Tuesday to determine if he can practice and play this week.
- If David Ash can not play, Case McCoy will start at quarterback again versus K-State and Tyrone Swoopes would be the backup.
- If Texas beats Kansas State, head Coach Mack Brown would tie Wood Hayes for 10th on the NCAA all-time coaches victory. Brown has 237 career victories.
- Texas is 13-2 in Big 12 conference opening games under Mack Brown.