Longhorns try to stay in title contention against Kansas

A loss two weeks ago knocked Texas out of the No. 1 spot in the AP poll, the BCS standings and the Big 12 South. A win last week, though, has worked wonders in restoring the Longhorns’ confidence.

The fourth-ranked Longhorns look to improve their chances of competing for the conference title when they visit struggling Kansas on Saturday.

Three straight wins over teams ranked No. 11 or better gave Texas (9-1, 5-1) control of its own destiny at the end of October, but a 39-33 loss to then-No. 6 Texas Tech with 1 second remaining on Nov. 1 was a crushing blow to the Longhorns’ national championship aspirations.

Though that defeat will continue to haunt the Longhorns as they head toward bowl season, the team is feeling a lot better after getting back on track with a 45-21 win over Baylor last Saturday.

“You want to get the bad taste out of your mouth,” said coach Mack Brown, whose team outgained Baylor 494-272 and scored 31 of the game’s final 38 points. “More than anything I felt that Monday, and I know the kids did too.”

Linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy echoed Brown’s sentiments.

“Getting a win back under our belt, everybody’s got the motivation,” he said. “We’re all high again.”

The Longhorns may be feeling better, but they’re a long way from the position they were in before their defeat. No matter what they do the rest of the season, they may not get a chance to play for the national title or even the Big 12 championship. Undefeated Texas Tech, which is idle this week before facing No. 5 Oklahoma and Baylor in its last two regular-season games, has the edge in both races.

Texas, though, is still looking to do its part to stay alive, and the next step is avoiding an upset against the struggling Jayhawks (6-4, 3-3). Kansas entered the season ranked 14th, three spots behind Texas in the preseason poll, but has fallen out of the Top 25 with three losses in its last four games.

The Jayhawks still have a shot at representing the shallower Big 12 North in the conference championship game, trailing division-leader Missouri by one game. But they’re not feeling good about their chances after a 45-35 loss at Nebraska last Saturday, their first defeat to an unranked team in nearly two years.

“As a team we’re disappointed. Because it was a Big 12 North loss, it makes it that much more disappointing,” receiver Dezmon Briscoe said. “We came into the game knowing that it was this type of game you play to win championships, and we fell short of it.”

Briscoe caught six passes for 176 yards and a touchdown from Todd Reesing as Kansas totaled 422 yards last weekend, slightly under its season average of 443.2 - the 18th-best mark in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The Jayhawks, though, gave up at least 45 points for the third time in four games. They’re allowing 520.0 total yards per game in that stretch.

“We had a lot of coverage busts and mental mistakes, things you can’t have against good quarterbacks,” cornerback Justin Thornton said. “We’ve learned in the Big 12 you can’t make mistakes like that because all the quarterbacks, most of them are good.”

That certainly applies to Texas’ Colt McCoy, a Heisman Trophy candidate who leads the FBS with a completion percentage of 78.0 and ranks in the top 10 in passing yards (2,879) and touchdowns (28).

The third-year starter completed 26 of 37 passes for 300 yards, a season-high five touchdowns and two interceptions in last week’s victory. He’s planning on delivering another strong performance as Texas tries to improve its position in the BCS standings in anticipation of bowl season.

“We feel like if we win, and that is our only goal, then we are doing the best we can,” he said. “We have two games ahead of us. We are going to be focused, we’re going to be ready.”

McCoy has never played against Kansas, which is meeting Texas for the first time since 2005. The Longhorns won that game 66-14 en route to an undefeated national championship season, and have won six straight against the Jayhawks by an average of 30.8 points since a 19-18 loss in 1938.