SWARM­ING SEC­ONDARY HELPS HORNS JOIN TOP 25

Sat­ur­day’s 31-16 win over TCU has the Longhorns back in AP poll at No. 18.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Brian Davis bdavis@statesman.com

Texas cor­ner­back Kris Boyd sure seemed rather de­mure in the af­ter­math of Sat­ur­day’s 31-16 win over TCU.

Never mind the fact he broke up two passes in the end zone for

po­ten­tial TCU touch­downs. He was par­tic­u­larly in­censed about Shawn Robin­son’s back-shoul­der throw to Jalen Reagor that al­lowed

the Horned Frogs to score just be­fore half­time.

“I give my­self a C, C-mi­nus,” Boyd said. “You don’t get no good grade if you get scored on at all. I don’t care if you’re beat­ing a team 41-7.”

There are no make-up ex­ams dur­ing the fall se­mes­ter at DBU. It’s a pass/fail grad­ing sys­tem. Given the en­tire body of work against the Frogs, the Longhorns (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) should feel ec­static about the sec­ondary and where this sea­son is headed.

On Sun­day, Texas jumped back into the As­so­ci­ated Press Top 25 poll at No. 18. It’s the pro­gram’s high­est rank­ing since Septem­ber 2016. The next as­sign­ment is this week­end’s road trip to Kan­sas State (2-2, 0-1). Texas hasn’t won in Man­hat­tan since 2002.

This might be the per­fect time to catch the Wild­cats, too. K-State is com­ing off a frus­trat­ing 35-6 loss at West Vir­ginia. The nor­mally-staid Bill Sny­der even blasted his own play­ers af­ter­ward by telling re­porters, “I can’t coach a team that can’t get six inches on a play.”

Af­ter four games this sea­son, Kan­sas State has the sec­ond-low­est

of­fen­sive to­tals of any school in the Big 12. The pass­ing game is av­er­ag­ing 191 yards per game, which also ranks ninth in the league.

For the up-and-down Longhorns of re­cent years, it looks like a tai­lor-made trap game. It’s hard to be­lieve that with this cur­rent group, though. Coach Tom Her­man has ham­mered home the point of go­ing 1-0 ev­ery week. Maybe it’s fi­nally taken hold.

“I think we all have bought in,” safety Bran­don Jones said. “Ev­ery po­si­tion, ev­ery player on the team. We’ve bought in and we know what we’re ca­pa­ble of do­ing. The dif­fer­ence be­tween now and the past is we’re just re­ally hav­ing fun.”

No Texas unit is play­ing with more swag­ger right now than the sec­ondary. All four starters had shin­ing mo­ments on Sat­ur­day.

Boyd was break­ing up passes in the end zone. Jones, who made the goal-line stop against USC, pounced on a fum­ble against TCU and also had an in­ter­cep­tion. Da­vante Davis de­liv­ered solid licks and had two pass break-ups him­self against the Frogs.

“It was fear­less,” Her­man said of UT’s sec­ondary play. “Es­pe­cially in big mo­ments I saw those guys in the back­field not hes­i­tate, not think, not stut­ter their feet, but just go make plays, and I was proud of them for that.”

And there’s fresh­man Caden Sterns, who fol­lowed up his USC per­for­mance with an­other star turn against TCU. Sterns had two in­ter­cep­tions, five tack­les and will be a strong can­di­date for Big 12 de­fen­sive player of the week hon­ors.

Asked how he’s al­ways around the ball, Sterns said, “I don’t know. In­stincts, I guess.”

Last week, Texas de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Todd Or­lando noted how Sterns is such a se­ri­ous stu­dent of the game. Be­fore fac­ing USC, play­ers were get­ting them­selves pumped up in the locker room. Not Sterns.

“Gary John­son’s danc­ing, and (Sterns) is over there look­ing at his tip sheets and his scout­ing re­ports,” Or­lando said. “I go up and lit­er­ally close it on him. Go play ball, kid. But that’s what he is. I’ve never been around a young guy that’s so ma­ture and so pro­fes­sional about what he’s do­ing.”

Said Sterns: “I just like to sit down, be in my own lit­tle zone and calm be­fore the storm, I guess.”

That con­fi­dence seen among the sec­ondary is spread­ing to other Longhorns.

“It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing to know that you’ve got dogs to your left, your right and up front,” Jones said. “We re­ally trust each other in the long run.”

There’s no rea­son for any UT player to feel over­con­fi­dent this week. Re­mem­ber, there’s not a sin­gle player in that locker room who has ever won a cham­pi­onship or fin­ished any bet­ter than one game over .500.

“We’re go­ing to have a lot of con­fi­dence in the way that we pre­pare,” Her­man said, “but cer­tainly not ar­ro­gance.”

Right now, the Horns sim­ply want to keep their head down, keep mov­ing along and keep go­ing 1-0 ev­ery week.

“When you have fun,” Jones said, “you’re more con­fi­dent and you’re play­ing with swag­ger and you can trust your abil­i­ties to make plays.”

NICK WAG­NER / AMER­I­CAN-STATESMAN

Texas de­fen­sive backs Kris Boyd (left) and Da­vante Davis sig­nal no good af­ter TCU missed a field goal. Boyd broke up two passes in the end zone Sat­ur­day in Austin.

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