Texas avoids 1-3 start behind Gray's 2 TDs

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by Matt Mitchell

Bio | Email | Follow: @MattM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on September 21, 2013 at 11:57 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 21 at 11:57 PM

There's life in Texas yet. And maybe the pressure will ease off of coach Mack Brown, even if just for a few hours or days.

Johnathan Gray rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns, David Ash threw a 63-yard touchdown pass and Texas beat Kansas State 31-21 Saturday night in the Big 12 opener for both teams.

Gray became Texas' first 100-yard rusher on the season and Texas' defense, pushed around in consecutive losses, put up a solid and energetic performance, forcing three critical second-half turnovers.

Brown has been under intense pressure after three sub-par seasons and a bad start this year. The victory allowed Texas (2-2, 1-0) to avoid its first 1/3 start since 1956 and snapped a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats.

"You always want to start the conference off right," Gray said. "We wanted to prove a point and hit them in the mouth."

John Hubert scored two touchdowns and Tyler Lockett had 13 catches for 237 yards for Kansas State (2-2, 0-1).

Gray's first touchdown in the second quarter came after he made two dazzling cuts on a 21-yard run. His second put Texas up 24-7 in the third. Malcolm Brown ran for Texas' last touchdown after the Wildcats had pulled within 10 points early in the fourth quarter.

Ash, who missed the previous game with concussion-like symptoms, passed for 166 yards in the first half but missed the second with a new head injury. Senior Case McCoy took over, leading two touchdown drives.

Texas came in as a team desperate to turn around it season. After consecutive losses, Brown urged his team to focus on the Big 12 and trying to win the league crown. The Longhorns, most notably the defense, responded with their most complete game of the season against the defending Big 12 champs.

The defense, which played so poorly in the two losses, gave up a huge night receiving to Lockett, but forced the three turnovers that swung momentum early in the second half and preserved the win late.

"We came out fired up," Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "This was a team we hadn't beaten in a while."

Brown has been harshly criticized by Texas fans after the bad start to the season and his job future beyond this season rapidly escalated into a matter of open speculation.

On Thursday, a member of the Texas board of regents acknowledged that he and a former regent spoke in January with Alabama coach Nick Saban's agent about Saban coaching the Longhorns if Brown retired. Two days later, Brown was asked if he would consider retiring, but the matter was dropped when Brown said he wanted to keep coaching.

Saban dismissed speculation he'd be interested in the Texas job, but that didn't stop some Texas fans from printing burnt-orange "Saban 2014" t-shirts and wearing them to the game Saturday night.

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