Jayhawks Begin Final Road Swing at Texas

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Head coach David Beaty and the Jayhawks head South to begin a two-game road swing in the state of Texas with the Longhorns Saturday, Nov. 7. Kansas (0-8, 0-5 Big 12) and Texas (3-5, 2-3 Big 12) meet for just the 15th time in the history of the two programs with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. on both the Jayhawk Television Network and Longhorn Network.

Kansas and Texas have met just 14 times in the history of the two programs dating back to Nov. 23, 1901, when the Jayhawks shutout UT, 12-0. It would be 37 years before the two teams would meet again on Sept. 24, 1938, with Kansas edging out the Longhorns 19-18. The two squads wouldn’t meet again until Texas joined the Big 12 Conference in 1996 and have played 12 times since, including annually since 2011. KU has never beaten the Longhorns in conference play, including an 0-6 mark in games played in Austin.

Texas ranks ninth in the conference averaging 21.2 points-per-game behind 2,638 yards of total offense (1,563 rushing and 1,075 passing). The Longhorns have gained 129 first downs (79 rushing, 43 passing and 7 penalty) while scoring 22 touchdowns. When in the red zone, Texas scores 80 percent of the time (16-of-20) with 12 of those scores being for six points. UT quarterback Jerrod Heard completes 59.5 percent of his passes (66-of-111) and has thrown for 839 yards and three touchdowns. Heard ranks last in the conference in passing yards per game (104.9), total yards (839) and touchdowns thrown (3). Wide receiver Daje Johnson has been on the receiving end of 26 of those passes for 279 yards, averaging 10.7 yards per catch, while five other receivers have tallied the five touchdown passes thrown. The Longhorns have utilized four different backs to carry the load with Heard and Johnathan Gray doing the majority of the lifting. Heard averages 62.8 yards per game on 111 attempts, while Gray has rushed for 411 yards on 102 carries. The duo has combined for six of the squads’ 13 touchdowns on the ground. 

Texas enters Saturday’s contest ranked eighth in the Big 12 in both scoring defense and total defense, giving up 30.1 points per game and 435.2 yards per game, respectively. The Longhorns have given up the third-most first downs in the league at 208 and have the worst red zone defense allowing opponents to score on 32-of-34 trips inside UT’s 20-yard line (23 touchdowns and nine field goals). Teams have completed 63 percent of their passes for 1,989 yards and 19 touchdowns. Opponents average 186.6 rushing yards per game and 248.6 passing yards to make up 435.2 yards of total offense. Linebacker Peter Jinkens paces the defensive effort leading the squad in tackles (7.6 per game), sacks (0.5 per game) and tackles-for-loss (0.88 per game). Defensive back Dylan Haines leads the team with three interceptions for 50 yards to help aid in the squad’s plus-six turnover margin (12 gained –six fumbles and six interceptions– six lost).

A two-time conference coach of the year and the architect of a revitalized Louisville program that posted at least 11 wins in each of his final two seasons, Charlie Strong is in his second year as the Texas head football coach. Strong, the 29th head coach in UT history, spent the previous four seasons as Louisville’s head coach. He amassed a 37-15 record, a pair of Big East Conference Championships (2011, 2012) and was named Big East Coach of the Year in both 2010 and 2012. He also led UofL to four-straight bowl game appearances (3-1 record), including a victory over No. 4 Florida in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl. During 2014, Strong rallied the Longhorns from a 3-5 record to reach a bowl game despite the loss of two key starters on offense (QB David Ash, C Dominic Espinosa) and one on defense (DT Desmond Jackson) for nearly the entire season. Texas ended the season with one of the better defenses in the nation, ranking 25th in the FBS in total yards allowed (348.5 per game), No. 11 in passing defense (184.2 ypg), No. 7 in yards allowed per play (4.68), 15th in passing efficiency defense (110.04 rating), tied for 11th in sacks (3.1 pg) and 31st in points allowed (23.8 pg).

The Jayhawks are one of the youngest teams in the country as they rank first in first-time players (38) and second in first-time starters (32). Among the first-time starters, 10 have been true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. On offense, the Jayhawks have started at least four freshmen in three of their last four games, including six (five true and one redshirt) against Oklahoma (Oct. 31).

Of the 114 names listed on the Kansas football roster, 44 of them call Texas home –that is 38 percent of the entire roster. Of the 44, 26 have seen action in 2015. Against Oklahoma (Oct. 31), nine native Texans started on either offense or defense, while 20 total saw time in the game (total of 55 players participated in the game).

For the third time in the last four games, Kansas relied on its freshman quarterback and wide receiver combo to put points on the board against Oklahoma (Oct. 31). Quarterback Ryan Willis and wide out Tyler Patrick connected on an 18-yard pass for KU’s lone score of the game. Of the five touchdown passes Willis has thrown, three have been hauled-in by a fellow freshman or redshirt frosh. Steven Sims, Jr., had the other two.

Junior kicker/punter Matthew Wyman has embraced his new found role at punter the last three games, bolstering KU’s punt average from 33.7 yards per punt on 31 attempts to 42.8 yards per punt on the last 19 attempts when he assumed the role. Wyman has landed five inside the 20-yard line and three have gone for 50 or more yards. He holds the three longest punts on the season at 52 (two times) and 56 yards, respectively.

Junior safety Fish Smithson continues his outstanding 2015 campaign tallying his fifth double-digit tackling effort of the season against Oklahoma (Oct. 31) with 10 stops. Smithson leads the Big 12 Conference in both tackles (9.4 per game) and solo tackles (7.1 per game), and ranks 23rd and fourth nationally in the same categories. On the season, Smithson has tallied a season-high 75 tackles (57 solo and 18 assisted). In addition to his tackling effort, Smithson has broken up three passes, picked off another, forced a fumble and returned a fumble 66 yards.

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