Flash-flood warnings early Saturday left Texas playing in front of a half-empty DKR (capacity 100,119).
The steady rain so soaked the footballs, Texas redshirt freshman QB Jerrod Heard said they felt like 5-pound weights in the second quarter - to the point Heard told his coaches he was reluctant to throw.
And there was even another punt snap that sailed over the head of Longhorns' punter Michael Dickson in the fourth quarter with Texas clinging to a 7-point lead.
But thanks to a physical running game in the first half (and the 18-Wheeler package to help seal things late) as well as a defense you can now call relentless, a Texas team that couldn't finish Cal and Oklahoma State a month ago, finished off nemesis Kansas State, 23-9, Saturday and kept postseason hopes alive.
The win, which improved Texas to 3-4, also maintains momentum gained in a win over Oklahoma as the Longhorns head into a stretch that includes a tricky Halloween trip to Iowa State next Saturday night. (UT's last two games vs ISU haven't been settled until the final minute.)
After going to Ames, Texas plays at home against Kansas, then takes a road trip to West Virginia before coming home to face Texas Tech on Thanksgiving.
"It's all about confidence, and the guys have to just believe in themselves," said Texas coach Charlie Strong, whose team was coming off a bye week following a 24-17 victory over then-No. 10 Oklahoma. "We didn't want everyone saying that (OU) game was a fluke."
The Horns' offense pounded the Wildcats early, and the Texas defense threw haymakers all day - starting with a huge hit on KSU QB Joe Hubener by safety Jason Hall on the first play of the game.
The defense, led by Hall's 8 tackles and some more big plays from DT Hassan Ridgeway and LB Peter Jinkens, delivered the knockout in the second half. Over the final 30 minutes, UT gave up only a field goal and came up with the only turnover of the game, which helped seal only the second Texas victory over KSU in their last eight meetings.
"Rate it? It's an 'A,'" Ridgeway said. "We won. That's how you rate it."
The Longhorns' offense followed up 58 rushing attempts for 313 yards against Oklahoma by running it 53 times for 274 yards against K-State. The Horns ran it 36 of 40 plays in the first half for 188 yards on the ground and a 16-0 lead with 6:48 left in the second quarter.
Tyrone Swoopes (7 carries for 50 yards), the Longhorns' resident touchdown vulture, ran for two of his three TDs vs K-State in the first half.
Swoopes' third TD, which put Texas up 23-9 with 1:47 left, came on a three-play drive (set up by a Dylan Haines' INT) in which Swoopes carried the ball on all three plays. The 18 in the "18-Wheeler" package ripped off runs of 13 and 29 yards, then hammered into the end zone from 10 yards out.
"We're just putting games together," said Swoopes, who has either run or thrown for seven of UT's last eight offensive touchdowns.
Jerrod Heard (10 of 15 passing for 99 yards ... 15 carries for 61 yards, 4.1 ypc) said after the game that in the second quarter, the footballs had become heavy with water absorbed from the rain, and he told his coaches he didn't feel confident throwing the ball.
"There was a moment in the second quarter when the ball felt like it weighed five pounds from all the water in them," Heard said. "I was kinda scared (to throw passes). I was like, 'We can try, but I'd really be palming it and just tossing it up.'"
Offensive play caller Jay Norvell said Heard's comments to the coaches about the wet footballs "didn't affect us as far as wanting to pass the football. We made the best decision that we could and needed to execute better."
Norvell said Saturday's game in a bog wasn't indicative of the progress Heard was making in the passing game during UT's bye week.
"I thought we had a great week of practice throwing the football, and today it rained. So, what can you say?" Norvell said. "But we'll continue to practice that way and continue to get better."
Texas certainly seemed unwilling to attempt a pass after Kevin Vaccaro recovered a pooch kickoff late in the second quarter at the K-State 27. The Horns were up 16-0 at the time and might have been able to put KSU at check mate with a TD or even a field goal. But the Horns came up empty after four straight running plays, including a failed QB draw by Heard for 1 yard on fourth-and-5 from the KSU 22.
Norvell wouldn't make excuses for the failed drive based on Heard not feeling confident enough to throw a wet ball.
"Anytime we cross the 50, we're prepared to go for it," Norvell said. "That was a decision coach (Strong) wanted to do, and we just didn't execute well enough to get it. But that was an important drive. We needed to score on that drive and didn't get it done."
The lack of a passing game - wet balls or not - was clearly going to be a problem in the second half, because K-State was already making adjustments to take away the runs that were successful for Texas by the end of the half.
That was evidenced by KSU stuffing UT's running game on the drive after Vaccaro's big play.
Bill Snyder was at his best in calling a well-executed, 78-yard TD drive that started with 5:15 left in the half and ended with 32 seconds left before intermission. That drive, which started with an 18-yard run by KSU QB Joe Hubener and a 16-yard wheel route to Glenn "Baby Gronk" Gronkowski, was a clear message from the Wildcats the second half would be a knife fight.
Texas' first 27 plays of the second half went for 92 yards. The Longhorns' offense didn't cross the 50 in the third quarter until the closing seconds of the quarter.
But the defense bowed up, limiting KSU to only one third-down conversion in the third quarter (1of-4) and one in the fourth (1-of-4) while giving up only a field goal in the second half - on a drive in which Dylan Haines dropped a sure INT.
So it was only fitting that Haines came up with the INT in the fourth quarter with 3:02 left that set up UT's only points of the second half - a three-play TD drive with every play a run by Tyrone Swoopes (13, 29 and a 10-yard TD run).
"I can't say I was too excited about it (the INT), because I was thinking about the ones that I dropped or could have had," Haines said. "I think I could've had three interceptions in the game. But just to drop the first two and come back and get another opportunity late in the game, at a critical point - it felt good to come up with that turnover and let our offense go out there and burn clock."
The winner of Texas v K-State has been determined by the winner of the turnover battle each of the last nine years.
KSU turned it over only once (Dylan Haines' INT in the 4Q) and Texas was able to turn it into the game-clinching TD.
One of the unsung plays of the game came early in the fourth quarter, when Kyle Ashby's snap sailed over Michael Dickson's head, and Dickson ran backward about 7 yards, picked up the ball and punted it down to K-State's 8.
Instead of a disaster - yet another special teams disaster - at around Texas' 35-yard-line, Dickson was able to flip the field position. KSU didn't get past its own 21 on that next possession.
"With the weather, I was watching every special teams play," Haines said. "And when I saw the snap sail over Michael's head, your mind goes back to the Oklahoma State and TCU games, and I was just thinking, 'I hope he gets to the ball first.' And then he picks it up and was able to get off a punt that we down at the 8. That was huge.
"I went up to him afterward and congratulated him. You're talking about a guy from Australia who played a completely different kind of football there and is in his first year ever of playing American football. That was a big play."
Asked if Dickson's play, in the face of yet another potential special teams disaster, could serve as a metaphor for Texas starting to turn its season around, Johnson said, "Oh definitely. Everybody had deja vu when that happened. But not this time. He (Dickson) came through, just like this team is coming through."
Jerrod Heard was 10 of 15 passing for 99 yards.
Swoopes was 0-for-1 passing.
Johnathan Gray ran it 18 times for 103 yards (5.7 ypc).
Heard ran it 15 times for 61 yards (4.1)
Swoopes ran it 7 times for 50 yards (7.1 ypc) and 3 TDs.
D'Onta Foreman had 10 carries for 43 yards (4.3 ypc)
Chris Warren ran it 2 times for 19 yards (9.5)
Texas ended up rushing 53 times for 274 yards and threw for 99 yards, and UT was 7 of 15 on third down.
Daje Johnson had 6 catches (mostly flips on speed sweeps) for 41 yards.
John Burt had 2 catches for 25 yards.
Caleb Bluiett had a catch for 28 yards.
Jason Hall, Duke Thomas - 8 tackles
Holton Hill - 5 tackles
Dylan Haines - 4 tackles, INT
5 sacks - Peter Jinkens, Bryce Cottrell, John Bonney, Derick Roberson, Paul Boyette (.5), Malik Jefferson (.5)
Texas as 11 sacks the past two games (6 vs OU).