LAWRENCE, Kansas — All week long, the Texas fight song blared across the Kansas practice field. Signs festooned the Jayhawks' locker room reminding everybody how long it had been since Kansas beat the Longhorns — 76 years.
Coach Charlie Weis also hoped he might get some extra energy and pop from the fact that 25 of his players are natives of Texas - and not one had been recruited by that big school in Austin.
Well, so much for psychological motivation. Wasting a good effort by the defense, Kansas failed to capitalize on a few scoring opportunities and lost to the Longhorns (2-2, 1-0 Big 12) 23-0 on Saturday.
Kansas (2-2, 0-1) next travels to West Virginia, which last year became the first Big 12 team to lose to the Jayhawks in 27 games.
"There's a new opportunity next week to go down and beat West Virginia at their place," linebacker Ben Heeney said. "We got a win against them and I'm sure they're not forgetting that. We just have to be ready to play them next week."
Weis, who was hailed as a quarterback expert when hired three years ago, is still struggling to find an effective man to put behind center.
"Our Achilles' heel on offense is still making productive plays in the passing game, and that's at the end of the day what ended up costing us," he said.
While a 2-2 getaway in Charlie Strong's first year as head coach may prove disappointing to some, the Longhorn defense has nothing to apologize for.
In their 23-0 blanking of Kansas, the defense sacked and intercepted Montell Cozart four times each, running the season total to 17 quarterback take-downs and nine quarterback picks. In all of 2013, they had only 10. It was also the first time Texas had shut out a Big 12 foe on the road since 2005 and the 12th consecutive victory over the Jayhawks.
"The guys came up with big plays at the right time," Strong said. "Any time you defensively get a shutout, it's really great for the defense."
Tyrone Swoopes passed ran for a touchdown and threw scoring passes of 1 and 16 yards for the Longhorns (2-2, 1-0) in his first conference start, hitting 19 of 34 for a career-best 218 yards. Cozart hit only 12 of 31 for 140 yards and the four interceptions, one of which was a Hail Mary at the end of the half.
Cornerback Duke Thomas had two of the interceptions and also broke up a short pass in the end zone on fourth down as the Longhorns won their conference opener for the 15th time in 16 tries.
"The thing about Duke is that he has a lot of confidence," Strong said. "Sometimes he plays with too much of it. Duke does a great job of covering. The thing he does is study receivers during the week, so he knows the throws and what is going to happen. It's tough to go in someone's place and beat them, especially when they play in your conference. So it's a big win for us. I tell them any time you play on the road you've got to pack your defense and your special teams. Those two units played well for us."
Texas, despite crippling injuries and nine player dismissals, never trailed the team that has now lost 30 of its last 31 Big 12 games.
It's the second time in four games the Kansas offense has failed to score a touchdown and senior defensive tackle Keon Stowers sees an off-the-field job looming for the seniors on defense.
"We just have to bring each other together," Stowers said. "We can't point fingers. We can't kick each other while we're down. We got to come in, we win as a team and we lose a team."
Still, it hurts to know everybody will assume the defense couldn't stop the Longhorns even though Texas never had a scoring drive of any length.
"When fans see the score ... they automatically say, 'Oh, same old Kansas. Same old this and that,'" Stowers said. "They don't really see how we played on one side of the ball as opposed to the other side of the ball. It's up the leaders and the older guys to really bring the younger guys along with us and just get back to work."
Thomas' first interception and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty set up the touchdown that gave Texas a 13-0 halftime lead. Thomas intercepted Cozart's pass and raced 24 yards to the 26, then the half-the-distance penalty gave the Longhorns a first down on the 13. Two plays later from the 7, Swoopes went around left end and squeezed into the corner of the end zone for the TD.
Kansas, failing to get a first down when linebacker Ben Heeney recovered a Texas fumble at the Kansas 2, punted to Jaxon Shipley, who sped 41 yards with the return and set up the Longhorns on the 18. On third-and-3, Swoopes hit Malcolm Brown for 10 yards to the 1. Next play, Swoopes spotted M.J. McFarland wide open in the back of the end zone. The extra-point attempt failed.
After taking over on downs late in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns made it 23-0 when Swoopes connected with John Harris on a 16-yard scoring pass. In the third quarter, Nick Rose, who missed the extra point after Texas' first touchdown, kicked a 42-yard field goal.
Kansas, following a 35-yard pass play from Cozart to Jimmay Mundine, had a second-and-8 from the 18. But Cozart's pass was tipped high into the air at the line and floated into the arms of Texas defender Quandre Diggs in the end zone. The Longhorns then marched all the way to the 5, aided by Armanti Foreman's 30-yard gain on a reverse. But Heeney fell on what was described as a team fumble and turned the ball back to the Jayhawks on their own 2.
With their second possession of the second half, the Jayhawks marched all the way from their own 16 to the Texas 5. On fourth down, Cozart lofted a fade pass to Nigel King. But with Thomas defending, the ball fell incomplete.
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