The Black Friday game in Lawrence was not a well attended affair, with the stands visibly empty on a cold November day where a three win Kansas team with a lame duck head coach took on the No. 14 Texas Longhorns, who were playing for a shot at some hardware.
For the majority of this game, it was hard to blame fans for not showing out. After a downed punt at their own two yard line, the Longhorns took their opening drive the length of the field and got an early 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
That would not portend a lot of scoring for Texas, who continued to get bogged down on third down, and ended up giving over two turnovers. The Longhorns did find the end zone on two of their first three possessions coming out of halftime, though, and went up 21-0 on the Jayhawks.
Just when it looked like Texas might put it away, a Pooka Williams run and a Peyton Bender touchdown pass made the game close again at 24-14. Kansas managed to recover an onside kick late, but a field goal would account for their last points of the day, as Texas came away with the win 24-17.
This was the last game of the season for Kansas, and the last regular season game for Texas. Below are some takeaways from the contest.
TEXAS IS OFFICIALLY GOING TO THE BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
And they took every second of this game to get there, too. The Longhorns held a three score lead going into the fourth quarter, and looked to be salting this game away. A 17-point fourth quarter by the Jayhawks – which included Kansas recovering an onside kick – made the last few minutes more exciting than the rest of the game would indicate. Thankfully for Texas, they don’t require style points in order to qualify for the Big 12 title game. The Longhorns will head to Arlington on December 1st to play in their first Big 12 championship since Colt McCoy was on campus.
LES MILES’S FIRST RECRUIT SHOULD BE POOKA WILLIAMS
The true freshman running back exploded onto the Big 12 scene from the beginning of this season, and he’s only progressed as the season’s worn on. He finished his inaugural campaign as a ball carrier with 1,125 yards on the ground, averaging 7.0 yards per carry. He can also do this:
POOKA WILLIAMS JR!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/LmFhgBeT2r
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) November 23, 2018
If he stays at Kansas, Williams projects to be the Big 12’s best running back in 2019. That’s definitely an “if,” but, coincidentally, his incoming head coach happens to have a history coaching great running backs. Les Miles probably wants to get on that.
SAM EHLINGER HAD HIS WORST GAME SINCE MARYLAND
The sophomore’s streak of passes without an interception finally ended in Lawrence, where he through two picks into the vaunted Jayhawks defense. Ehlinger looked off all game against a team that has had a historic year getting takeaways. There are going to be questions about Ehlinger’s health coming out of this one, as he’s dealing with a lingering shoulder injury that might have played into those picks. He’ll have had a full seven days to recuperate before playing in the title game, so it’s certainly probable that he bounces back.
THE BEATY ERA ENDED ABOUT AS WELL AS IT COULD
Kansas did not have control of this game at any point, but they were determined to not lose Beaty’s last game without a fight. The Jayhawks were hurt by their inability to move the ball through the air, but their defense was able to hold Texas to under 300 yards of total offense on the day. This Kansas team improved over the course of 2018, from starting out the season in a loss to FCS Nicholls State, to upsetting TCU at home. This 3-9 squad was probably Beaty’s best in his time at Kansas, where he finishes with a 6-43 head coaching record.
HERMAN IS MOVING TEXAS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
As they have all season, Texas played down to an opponent and didn’t cover in a road game (where they were favored by over 15 points, by the way). Still, aesthetics don’t count for much in the win/loss column, and the Longhorns secured their spot in Arlington. There will be plenty of time to speculate about their chances against rival Oklahoma, but it’s safe to say that Texas has overachieved somewhat to get to this point.
This Texas team is the only one to get to nine wins this decade, something that didn’t really seem possible when the Longhorns lost in Lawrence two years ago. That game opened the door for Tom Herman to come over from Houston, and in just his second year at the helm, he’s got Texas playing for a championship trophy.