AUSTIN, Texas — Texas players had insisted they could quickly move past the praise they earned with a thumping win at Alabama.
That clearly wasn't quite so easy to do. After a sluggish start against Wyoming, the Longhorns needed another big finish to pull away for a 31-10 win Saturday night in game that was tied after three quarters.
Texas did it with some razzle-dazzle from their big playmakers.
Xavier Worthy caught a 44-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth, Jerrin Thompson added an interception return for another score minutes later, and No. 4 Texas pulled away for a victory and pushed the Longhorns to 3-0 for the first time since 2012.
Jonathon Brooks added 164 yards rushing for Texas, which has scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of each game this season.
After their impressive win at Alabama, Texas jumped to its highest ranking in 14 years, then came home to find itself in a dogfight with a program that has never beaten a top-10 opponent.
“We had a lot of sore backs from people patting us on the back congratulating us,“ Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “It’s human nature to get distracted by that and you lose sight of what’s right in front of you.”
Wyoming (2-1) had already beaten Texas Tech of the Big 12 and wasn’t intimidated by the Texas sellout crowd of more than 100,000 and the fancy new stadium light show for the Longhorns.
The Cowboys struck first with Harrison Waylee’s 62-yard touchdown run on their first possession, then rallied to tie it at 10-10 late in the third with a 17-play drive that started inside their own 5 yard line.
Texas had the individual talent to take over in the fourth quarter.
Worthy caught a short sideline pass and looked like he was pinned there. Then he wasn’t. Worthy avoided one hit, then another two defenders as he tight-roped along the sideline all the way to the end zone.
“Our coaches preach that big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games,” Worthy said. “This really woke us up to not get complacent.”
Texas extended the lead to 24-10 on Quinn Ewers' short yard touchdown run. On Wyoming's next possession, Thompson stepped in front of a short pass from Evan Svoboda and went untouched 27 yards to the score.
Thompson also had a fourth-quarter interception against Alabama that set up a touchdown.
“I like being 3-0,” Sarkisian said. “That's a heckuva a lot better than any other outcome we could have.”
Wyoming: The Cowboys had some new names in key roles on offense. Svoboda got the start at quarterback in place of Andrew Peasely, whose gritty performance against Texas Tech carried Wyoming to that upset victory. Svoboda was solid until the late interception with 136 yards passing. Waylee, a transfer from Northern Illinois, played in his first game of the season and rushed for 110 yards.
Texas: The Longhorns avoided a massive letdown and upset on a night Ewers and the offense struggled for much of the game. Texas had just 316 total yards. Ewers passed for just 57 yards in the first half, missed receivers on several throws and floated a pass into coverage that should have been intercepted before Texas' first field goal. He will need to sharpen up like he was against Alabama heading into Big 12 play.
BIG MAN TOUCHDOWN
Texas' first touchdown was a Ewers 1-yard pass to Byron Murphy II. What's unusual about that? Murphy is a 6-foot-1, 310-pound nose tackle. He is also part of the Longhorns' goal line package. On his touchdown, Murphy slipped in the right flat as an eligible receiver and Ewers fired a pass that Murphy gently cradled into his chest before he was mobbed by teammates.
“Nobody gets more excited than a D-lineman when he catches a touchdown pass,” Sarkisian said.
The Longhorns' slow start likely won't hurt them in a week when several top teams struggled to put away opponents they were expected to beat. Look for them to stay right where they are.
Wyoming hosts Appalachian State on Saturday.
Texas starts its final Big 12 season at Baylor on Saturday.