No mercy; Horns throttle Jayhawks 59-0

Mid-way through the second quarter Saturday at DKR, a Kansas writer lamented the lack of a Mercy Rule in college football. Interim Kansas coach Tom Hayes probably would have agreed. At the time, the Horns led 23-zip, an advantage they would eventually extend to 38-0 with the first-teamers before the Texas coaches emptied the bench. Even the Orange-clad back-ups showed little mercy to the rookie head coach's team, adding another 21 points before the clock finally, mercifully ticked to zero.

Don't be fooled by the 59-nada final score. It wasn't that close.

Texas totaled 606 yards in offense to KU's 67. The Jayhawks managed just 11 first half yards vs. Carl Reese's defense. They had just seven first downs, and four of those came on UT penalties. KU did not convert a third down attempt all day. The visitors not only couldn't run (their longest running play from scrimmage went a whoppin' seven yards), they couldn't punt (Texas partially blocked two and the KU punter fumbled another that resulted in a safety), pass (their longest passing play covered 15 yards, almost a fourth of their total yardage) or kick (OK, they weren't that bad in the kicking game, but if they would have had more chances, you can bet they would've screwed something up).

The Jayhawks can take heart, though, there's just two games left in their miserable season. Texas also has at least two games left, but those two games won't just be an afterthought to the start of hoops season like for the folks up in Lawrence.

The Horns may not be hitting on all cylinders, but both the offensive and defensive engines are hummin' nonetheless.

On O, UT's first three scoring drives lasted a quick-strike-like :59, 1:13 and :53. The Horns registered a 60-plus-yard play on each drive. Cedric Benson ripped off his longest run of the season, a 61-yarder that ended three yards shy of the goalline setting up his own TD plunge a play later for UT's first score, Roy Williams hauled in his longest pass of the season, a 68-yard TD reception on the Horns' next series on a hitch-and-go, and Benson scooted 60 yards for another TD on a shovel pass from Chris Simms.

After Benson's pass reception touchdown just under 11 minutes into the game, Texas had a 21-point cushion and 214 yards in offense. Benson almost matched that 214-yard total by game's end, rushing 28 times for a freshman record 213 yards. He added 68 yards on two receptions to push his all-purpose total to 281 yards, another freshman-record.

"It's all exciting," the former Midland Lee stud said post-game of his weekly assault on the record books, "especially me being a freshman. My dreams are falling into place. If I continue to run hard and help the team win games, everything else will fall into place."

The next record to fall could be Ricky Williams' UT freshman rushing record of 990 yards. Benson moved to within 95 yards of that mark. He'll get the opportunity on the day after Thanksgiving to break it in College Station at Kyle Field, just as Ricky did in '95.

Simms had his fifth straight outstanding performance, hitting 16 of his 24 attempts for 284 yards, including the two big-play TDs to Benson and Roy Williams. Williams totaled 109 yards on six catches, all in the first half, to push his season numbers to 54 grabs for 697 yards.

On D, the shutout, the Horns' first this season, essentially speaks for itself. But as you would expect, Reese had a few colorful comments to describe the improvement his defense has made since the spring of '98, his first on the Forty Acres. "We didn't have team speed then," the D-coordinator said. "It was a total patch job. We were trying to make chocolate chip cookies and we didn't have any chocolate chips."

Now, the Longhorn D is populated almost exclusively by bluechips, almost all of which Reese and the rest of this staff are responsible for bringing to Austin. Guys like Derrick Johnson, who totaled six tackles, including a TFL and a sack, on the day, and Nathan Vasher, who picked off two KU passes, setting up two of UT's scored, and the Texas City gang -- seniors Everick Rawls, Tyrone Jones, Ervis Hill and Jermain Anderson -- that accounted for eight tackles.

"We wanted to make sure to keep the goose-egg up there," senior LB and game leading tackler D.D. Lewis said. "We wanted to do it for ourselves but also for coach Reese. We played our butts off . . ."

Reese was quick to point out, though, that defenses alone don't get shutouts. The entire team does it with its play in all three phases of the game, which of course, Texas dominated.

About the only suspense of the day came at halftime, watching a middle-aged Alumni Band member continually toss the baton high in the air only to have it slip his grasp on the downward flight and tumble to the turf. At last, on his final attempt, he snagged the baton to the roar of the sellout DKR crowd. Aside from that, the biggest crowd reaction probably came on Major Applewhite's entry into the game late in the third.

Fittingly, the senior QB took the team 78 yards for a TD on his first possession under center, covering the final yard himself with a sneak for six. The play call from the sideline was an off tackle run for Benson, who already had 51 rushing yards on the drive, but Major, wanting a TD in his final appearance before the home fans, changed the call to a QB sneak.

In typical Applewhite fashion, before changing the play, he asked Benson if he would mind the change. Benson said go for it, which Major did.

The QB joked post-game, "He's a freshman. He's gonna get other opportunities."

After punching it into the end zone, Major fired the football into the student section of stadium, drawing a 15-yard penalty, even more fan adulation than just minutes before when he had trotted onto the field for the first time, and absolutely no anger from the coaching staff.

"I thought it was great," Greg Davis said, before adding with a smile: "I told him we're going to charge him $85 for the ball. You've gotta be happy for Major. . . . (the crowd reaction) was a great tribute to the young man."

Applewhite threw an interception on the Horns' next possession and finished just one-for-three for 25 yards, but that didn't spoil the moment for Major, who said at one time today, listening to the cries of the crowd, he had a smile so big he physically couldn't start crying.

"This was a special day," Mack Brown said after watching 23 seniors play their last game at Memorial Stadium. "I don't think we could have scripted it any better."

Surely Major, who has been the epitomy of class during this his senior season, would have scripted it a bit differently. But asked that very question, Applewhite said, "I wish I would have put a spiral on (the ball I threw into the stands)."

On a day designed to honor the Horns' senior class, Major thrilled the crowd one more time and showed class to the very end.

Notes: LG Beau Baker left the game late in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. Baker started the game in place of the injured Tillman Holloway, who did not suit out. With Baker out, Antwan Kirk-Hughes, the Horns' regular starting RG who had missed the last two weeks with a sprained ankle, tried to play, but he left the field after only a couple of snaps and did not return. Derrick Dockery, the only healthy player among Tim Nunez's top four guards, played RG until the coaches emptied the bench in the fourth, while Matt Anderson slid over from center to left guard and Jason Glynn took over at center. The extent of Baker's injury is unknown, although it is not thought to be severe. FS Ahmad Brooks hurt his shoulder in the fourth quarter and iced it on the sideline for the rest of the game. No definite word yet on the severity of the injury but like Baker's, it is not thought to be severe. . . . Representatives from the Sugar, Fiesta and Holiday Bowls attended Saturday's game. A good sign about the level of interest of the Sugar Bowl: it had seats for three reps to the Fiesta and Holiday's one each. File this in the curious category, but the Silicon Valley Bowl also had two reps scheduled to be in attendance.

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