Sam Ehlinger shrugged off the effects of a lingering shoulder injury to throw for two touchdowns and run for another score and help No. 14 Texas outlast Kansas 24-17 on Friday at Booth Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas. It was the regular-season finale for both teams.
The win granted the Longhorns (9-3, 7-2 in Big 12 play) a spot in the conference championship game, its first since 2009. Texas will play the winner of Friday night’s game between No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 13 West Virginia on Dec. 1 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Ehlinger hit on 16 of his 28 passes for 154 yards and two interceptions, and Tre Watson ran for 79 yards on 14 carries for the Longhorns.
The loss ended the three-year coaching tenure in Kansas (3-9, 1-8) for David Beaty, who was fired earlier this month but was allowed to finish out the season. Former LSU and Oklahoma State coach Les Miles already has been hired to replace Beaty.
Peyton Bender passed for 159 yards and a touchdown for the Jayhawks while Pooka Williams ran for 103 yards on 16 carries for Kansas.
The Longhorns showed early on that they came to town with a purpose when they moved 98 yards in 11 plays, culminating in a 26-yard touchdown strike from Ehlinger to Collin Johnson and a 7-0 lead at the 8:08 mark of the first quarter.
It was the Longhorns’ longest touchdown drive of the season in terms of yardage.
That was all Texas could muster offensively in the first half, despite the fact that Texas outgained Kansas 158-82 in the first 30 minutes of play. One Longhorns’ drive was halted when Ehlinger, who was not sharp with his accuracy, suffered his first interception in 309 passes at the KU 12 when trying to force a throw into Lil’Jordan Humphrey, taking points off the board.
The Longhorns expanded their lead on their second possession of the third quarter, as Ehlinger hit tight end Andrew Beck in the right flat for a 5-yard TD pass at the end of a six-play, 52-yard drive and a 14-0 advantage. The key play on the drive was a 31-yard run by Watson on the snap prior to the scoring play.
Ehlinger’s 3-yard touchdown run with 1:02 remaining in the third quarter culminated a 10-play, 60-yard march that pushed the Longhorns’ lead to 21-0.
Kansas’ Williams, who ran for 252 yards on just 15 carries on Nov. 17 against Oklahoma, finally got loose on the second play of the fourth quarter, bouncing off the pile before finding clear air off left tackle for a 57-yard TD run that brought the Jayhawks back to within 21-7.
An exchange of interceptions produced a 34-yard field goal by Cameron Dicker that expanded Texas’ lead to 24-7 with 10:57 to play.
Kansas added a touchdown with 3:27 to play on a 31-yard pass from Bender to Daylon Charlot and, after a successful onside kick, a 45-yard field goal by Gabriel Rui with 1:37 remaining.
—Field Level Media