Sweet re­venge

Shane Buechele and UT avenge last year’s loss to Kansas.

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Nick Moyle nmoyle@ex­press-news.net twit­ter.com/nr­moyle

AUSTIN — Re­venge is not the purest mo­ti­va­tor. Nor is it the most sta­ble. Play­ing with that kind of raw emo­tion can leave the mind clouded and body burnt out. But when chan­neled prop­erly it can make a fine, if ephemeral and highly com­bustible, fuel.

Texas might have burnt out too soon Satur­day night, but its open­ing salvo proved enough to down er­ror-prone Kansas 42-27 at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

It took nine sec­onds for UT to get on the board. After re­cov­er­ing a gameopen­ing on­side kick in­side Kansas ter­ri­tory, quar­ter­back Shane Buechele dropped a 49-yard dime to Lorenzo Joe — who en­joyed a ca­reer day with five re­cep­tions for 98 yards — as he streaked past the cov­er­age.

That play in and of it­self was not rea­son to be­lieve UT (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) was play­ing with hate in its heart from last year’s loss at Kansas. That showed on the other side of the ball.

On KU’s first pos­ses­sion, safety Ja­son Hall speared Jay­hawks quar­ter­back Carter Stan­ley with all the in­ten­sity of a me­dieval bat­ter­ing ram. Team physi­cians ex­am­ined a sprawled Stan­ley as he strug­gled to suck in air. Later in the first quar­ter DeShon El­liott drove run­ning back Khalil Her­bert into the ground with such force it’s a won­der there wasn’t a man-sized sil­hou­ette em­bed­ded in the turf.

Mis­takes ham­per ef­fort

That ag­gres­sion did not al­ways serve UT’s pur­poses, though. Of­ten enough, those pun­ish­ing hits were coun­ter­bal­anced by mis­cues borne of overzeal­ous­ness and big-play hunt­ing.

Both of KU’s first half touch­down drives were helped by UT penal­ties. Stan­ley Sim’s 5-yard scor­ing re­cep­tion was aided by a horse-col­lar penalty and de­fen­sive pass in­ter­fer­ence call. A 12-play, 75yard drive that ended in leap­ing end-zone grab by 6-6 fresh­man Earl Bo­stick Jr. ben­e­fited from an il­le­gal sub­sti­tu­tion penalty called on UT.

And Kris Boyd’s fum­bled kick­off re­turn be­came the gen­e­sis of KU’s 36-yard field goal late in the sec­ond quar­ter, which cut UT’s lead to 28-17.

Against an­other team, say West Vir­ginia or Texas Tech, those mis­takes might have cost Texas the game. The Horns sur­vived against Kansas (1-9, 0-7) be­cause of their su­pe­rior tal­ent and a 28-7 first-quar­ter cush­ion.

Se­nior Ant­waun Davis turned in ar­guably the best per­for­mance of his ca­reer start­ing at nickel back in place of in­jured P.J. Locke (an­kle). He had 16-yard pick-six in the first quar­ter, re­cov­ered a muffed punt at the Kansas 22-yard line, then in­ter­cepted Stan­ley in the end zone one drive later.

UT’s de­fense forced four turnovers and recorded four sacks.

“This is a guy that needed to pass an un­godly amount of hours in the spring and sum­mer to grad­u­ate, and he needed to grad­u­ate to be el­i­gi­ble to play this sea­son,” coach Tom Her­man said of Davis. “And he grad­u­ated and is play­ing re­ally good … he’s filled in very well for P.J.

“And then Ja­son Hall, that’s an­other prod­uct of P.J. go­ing out, but it was good to see him find a nat­u­ral home there kind of down low to the box and be­ing able to de­fend the run a lit­tle bit.”

UT’s other early scores came off a daz­zling, juke-filled 23-yard scam­per by Toneil Carter and an8-yard hookup be­tween fresh­men Sam Eh­linger and Cade Brewer.

Un­even per­for­mance

It marked Eh­linger’s first taste of game ac­tion since sus­tain­ing a con­cus­sion against Ok­la­homa State. He at­tempted and com­pleted two passes for 9 yards with the score.

But Buechele pi­loted UT for the game’s ma­jor­ity, and his per­for­mance proved un­even.

He com­pleted 22 of 39 passes for 249 yards, one touch­down, and one il­lad­vised in­ter­cep­tion early in the fourth quar­ter with UT grasp­ing to a 15-point lead.

UT’s de­fense, as it has all sea­son, bailed out Buechele and the of­fense. Ma­lik Jef­fer­son recorded the game’s big­gest stop, blow­ing through KU’s of­fen­sive line to wal­lop run­ning back Tay­lor Martin in the back­field on fourth-and-2 from UT’s 29-yard line.

Chris War­ren plunged in from 1 yard out on UT’s en­su­ing pos­ses­sion, a pro­tracted 12-play, 68-yard drive, the fi­nal nail in a cof­fin that proved ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult to shut.

It was, as Her­man said, very much a “tale of two halves,” par­tic­u­larly for the Longhorns’ er­ratic of­fense.

“I think the mo­men­tum thing is real,” Her­man said. “With such an in­ex­pe­ri­enced out­fit that we have right now, we’ve got to do a bet­ter job about not wor­ry­ing what the score is and not wor­ry­ing about how the de­fense is play­ing or wor­ry­ing about get­ting stopped.

“We knew that we were go­ing to have to punt ev­ery now and again in this game. We harped on it all week, mak­ing sure we main­tain a pos­i­tive en­ergy on that side of the ball. And I think we did. I think we let the mo­men­tum get to us just a hair, but we snapped out of it pretty well.”

The Longhorns won’t be play­ing for re­venge in their fi­nal two games against West Vir­ginia and Texas Tech. Their mo­ti­va­tion will be a win­ning sea­son and bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity.

For a pro­gram that hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced ei­ther in too long, that should be fuel enough.

Tim Warner / Getty Im­ages

Mal­colm Roach lifts UT team­mate An­twuan Davis into the air in cel­e­bra­tion fol­low­ing an in­ter­cep­tion dur­ing the Longhorns’ vic­tory over Kansas on Satur­day night in Austin.

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