For the second week in a row, the Texas Longhorns were able to narrowly escape disaster in beating the lowly Kansas Jayhawks 21-17 after Case McCoy's game-winning touchdown to D.J. Grant.
There is ugly, there is really ugly, and then, there is what took place on Saturday in Lawrence. David Ash regressed back to his 2011 form, and the defense had trouble stopping the most one-dimensional offense in the Big 12 with missed tackles continuing to pile up for Manny Diaz's defense. In short, there are few reasons for optimism heading into the final weeks of the regular season.
But, it was not all bad as the Longhorns are now bowl-eligible and have guaranteed that this season will not be quite the embarrassment that was 2010. Still, a performance like that against a team that has no business competing with Texas is enough to scare even the staunchest of fans with games against Texas Tech and Kansas State looming.
In any event, here are the winners and losers from Texas' gut-wrenching win over the Jayhawks.
The most obvious winner from the Longhorns' win over the Jayhawks is quarterback Case McCoy, who might have earned himself the starting job after leading his team on a game-winning drive.
McCoy entered the game with the 'Horns trailing by a touchdown and 13:04 left to play. He promptly led a seven play, 84-yard drive to tie the game at 14 for the first points Texas had scored since its opening drive.
McCoy then got the ball back with just over two minutes left to play and his team trailing by a field goal. On that drive, McCoy completed a 4th-and-6 to Jaxon Shipley for 18 yards and then got Texas knocking on the door with a 39-yard rainbow to Mike Davis.
The rest is history as McCoy hit tight end D.J. Grant for a one-yard game-winner that probably saved his head coach's job (for now).
We have seen this before from McCoy—who is the better thrower between he and Ash. He is a great leader, and you have to love his preparedness for the situation that he was thrown into.
There has been no word as of yet as to whether McCoy is officially the starter but expect that to happen fairly soon. He is the more accurate passer and gives this offense the best chance to score points right now, which is paramount since this defense cannot stop a high school team.
Certainly the biggest loser from Saturday's win is quarterback David Ash, who probably lost his status as the starter to the aforementioned McCoy.
Whatever progress Ash had made prior to Saturday's contest went completely out the window against Kansas. Ash was throwing the ball all over the place, going 8-of-16 for 63 yards and two very bad interceptions, the second of which led to his being benched in favor of the backup McCoy.
You can dissect and critique Ash's poor performance all day, but the most telling statistic regarding the sophomore signal-caller is that he led nine drives and put up seven points. On the other hand, McCoy led only two drives and put up 14 points, along with leading a game-winning drive.
I would be shocked if we see Ash under center next week against Texas Tech.
Texas fans may not have much hope for the outcome of this 2012 season, but they have to be excited about the development of freshman running back Johnathan Gray.
A week after scoring his first touchdown as a Longhorn, Gray posted his first 100-yard game against the Jayhawks and was Texas' best offensive player for much of the game.
With the way he has been playing these last few weeks and in the absence of Malcolm Brown, one could argue that Gray is the best running back on this team. He is effective running both inside and out, while also showing the ability to effectively run Bryan Harsin's Wild package.
It really is a pleasure to watch this young talent grow up before our eyes.
In a game that should have given Texas an opportunity to flex its muscles and build some momentum heading into the stretch run, head coach Mack Brown's team is lucky to have come out with a win against the Jayhawks.
Kansas, a program that has lost its last 18 games against BCS programs, has no business hanging with Texas. And it certainly should not have taken a quarterback change along with a game-winning drive to dispose of a team that was 1-6 coming into this matchup.
But, the 'Horns had to gut it out against the Big 12's punching bag. And not only that, but Brown followed the game-making excuses about Charlie Weis' coaching prowess as being one of the reasons the outcome was so close.
Whatever the case may be, Brown did not have his guys ready to take care of business on Saturday, and it almost cost them a bowl game, his job and who knows what else.
I give him credit for having the guts to pull Ash in favor of McCoy in the fourth quarter, but Brown did not do much else to keep fans from calling for his head this week.
The Texas defensive front has been downright abused in Big 12 play, but senior defensive end Alex Okafor is the exception as he continues to stand out for this defense.
In his second game without sensational junior Jackson Jeffcoat on the opposite side, Okafor had yet another strong game for the 'Horns in turning in one of the few solid defensive performances of the game.The senior posted 13 tackles (11 solo) including one for a loss and a forced fumble for the beleaguered Longhorn defense.
There is not much more you can ask from a defensive end, and one would hope that Okafor's play would inspire some better effort from his teammates. That has yet to happen, but at least, he continues to play hard for this group.
For the fifth game in a row, Texas was manhandled at the line of scrimmage on defense, which is a major contributing factor to this team's struggles on defense.
Another week, another career high for an opposing running back as Kansas' James Sims rushed for 178 yards on 28 carries. This falls directly on the shoulders of the front seven, who have not been able to get it together ever since Jordan Hicks went down with his hip injury.
The tackles are getting no push, the linebackers are making bad reads and nobody is finishing tackles. Sure, the guys in the secondary are guilty of the same crimes, but that is going to happen when a defensive back has to make a one-on-one tackle on a running back in the secondary.
With the exception of Alex Okafor, the Texas front seven has been just bad this season. It has gotten away with the past couple of weeks because Texas is a more talented team than the likes of Baylor and Kansas, but how ugly is it going to get when this team finishes out the season at Kansas State?
A week after getting only three offensive touches, junior wideout Jaxon Shipley came up big for the 'Horns on Saturday and was a major reason his team was able to squeak by with a win.
From the opening possession, Shipley made his presence felt thanks to his soft hands and crisp route-running. Shipley led all receivers with six catches for 66 yards, including the biggest reception of the game on 4th-and-6 that led to D.J. Grant's game-winning reception.
If Case McCoy is in fact named the starting quarterback this week, expect big numbers from Shipley. His strong relationship with the junior quarterback is well-documented, and McCoy's accuracy as a passer will allow this team to better take advantage of Shipley's skills as a possession receiver.
Very nice to see Shipley getting more involved in this offense.
Ever since the onset on Big 12 play, it seems like defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's job status reaches a new level of peril on a weekly basis. This week will be no different.
Against offenses like West Virginia, Oklahoma and Baylor, it is somewhat understandable that this Texas defense would give up a lot. But against Kansas? Really?
The defense only gave up 17 points, which is a major improvement over the previous five games, but Texas still gave up 234 rushing and a career day to the Jayhawks. That makes it five straight Big 12 matchups in which Texas has given up over 200 yards on the ground.
Diaz did improve in the second half in giving up only 75 total yards, but how did it take him that long to figure out the Jayhawk offense? Their quarterback Michael Cummings had thrown for less than 200 total yards in his previous three games, so you know they do not want to throw the ball. Yet, the defense still gave up a 64-yard touchdown run to James Sims.
The failings of this defense do not fall entirely on Diaz's shoulders, and this unit did play much better in the second half, but that is about as punchless of an offense as you will see in a BCS conference. It should not have been able to put up 17 points.
Seems strange to say this about a member of this Texas secondary, but how about the two weeks sophomore safety Josh Turner has had for the Longhorns?
Last week against Baylor, Turner had the defensive play of the game when he intercepted a Nick Florence pass in the first half.
On Saturday against Kansas, Turner was a special teams demon. The scrappy sophomore twice recovered punts that pinned the Jayhawks inside their own 5-yard line and recovered a muffed punt at the beginning of the third that should have given Texas at least three points.
Turner is one of the reasons fans should not give up on this team. He is another very talented young player who is earning his stripes with his on-field performance, and along with its incredibly gifted group of freshmen, should be a driving force for getting this program turned around.