AUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Longhorns are on a roll, with four straight wins that have sent them to a share of the lead in the Big 12.
Up next? Kansas, a program that has lost 25 consecutive league games and has shown no sign that streak will end Saturday in Austin. But dial back the calendar to 2012 and the Longhorns will remember a game the Jayhawks could have — and probably should have — won.
Texas had to rally for a last-minute touchdown to get out of Lawrence with 21-17 victory that came on Case McCoy’s touchdown pass with 12 seconds to play. McCoy had come off the bench to replace ineffective starter David Ash.
McCoy’s winning drive almost never got started. His first pass went to straight to a Jayhawks defensive back who let the ball hit him in the chest before dropping it. McCoy also had to convert a fourth down to keep the drive going.
Coach Mack Brown remembers the play. He called it “my nightmare.”
McCoy had to replace Ash again this season because of an injury. Ash sustained a concussion on Sept. 7 against BYU and has played only one half of a game since then because of recurring symptoms. With McCoy and a rejuvenated defense and running game, the Longhorns have a surge of confidence from the win streak.
For Kansas, the long struggle continues. Early defensive success against Baylor last week quickly withered away in another blowout loss. Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis said he’ll try to use last year’s game against Texas to show his players that they can still compete.
Texas returned 19 starters from last year’s team, all players who were on the wrong end of the score against the Jayhawks until McCoy’s game-winning drive.
“We’re showing the game from last year,” Weis said. “It’s the same guys, fellas. … That’s who you’re going against. They are the same guys.”
Here’s five things to look for Kansas plays Texas:
STEADY MCCOY: McCoy has been so good through the last four games mostly because he had eliminated the turnovers that plagued him earlier in his career. But he also got a little loose with the ball and threw two interceptions in a 30-7 win last week over TCU. If steady McCoy turns back into swashbuckler McCoy, trouble could be on the horizon for the Longhorns. Brown said he’d remind McCoy of those mistakes in practice this week to reign in turnover problems.
TEXAS’ DEFENSIVE LINE: The Longhorns’ reputation is still suffering from the beating they took against BYU in the second game of the season, but the play on the field has been a complete turnaround. And it starts with the guys up front, where ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed and tackles Malcom Brown and Chris Whaley have stuffed opposing running backs and hounded quarterbacks. Jeffcoat, a senior, has a team-high six tackles and is playing the best, injury-free football in his career, and Reed is the only lineman in the Big 12 leading his team in tackles.
“They are rushing the passer as good as anybody in the country,” Brown said.
BIG PLAY MARCUS: Sophomore Marcus Johnson has emerged as Texas’ latest big-play threat with touchdown catches of 59 and 65 yards the last two weeks, giving McCoy another speedy target along with senior Mike Davis.
Asked why he and Johnson seem to have a special connection, notably on deep sideline passes, McCoy joked they had plenty of time in practice to perfect they’re timing because neither was a starter. “I’ve been throwing to him a long time. We’ve both been backups,” McCoy said.
LOUD HOME CROWD: Texas hasn’t played at home in a month and a crowd of about 101,000 could make it hard on the Kansas offense to hear, particularly if Texas jumps to an early lead.
Weis tried to prepare his team by playing the Texas fight song at practice and following it with a playlist of country music.
“No one really liked that,” Jayhawks running back James Sims said of the Texas fight song. “Everyone started booing.”
Defensive lineman Keon Stowers said he was done with country music.
“(Weis) played it until he was tired of it. Actually, there was a couple of guys on the team rocking to it,” Stowers said.
TEXAS SPECIAL TEAMS: The Longhorns have found a new touchdown threat in punt returner Daje Johnson, who scored a touchdown against Oklahoma and had another score against TCU nullified by a penalty. And place kicker Anthony Fera is delivering what the Longhorns expected when he transferred from Penn State in 2012. Fera is 11 of 12 on field goals this season and has made seven in a row, including a 50-yarder. He’s also averaging 42 yards per punt.
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