AUSTIN, Texas — Carter Stanley doesn’t quite remember the exact moment he sustained what has become his most visible wound.
A one-inch horizontal scar rests a few inches above the Kansas quarterback’s left eye, sustained on one of many in-game hits the sophomore has taken over the last several weeks. The gash has healed, but Stanley will likely sport the remnants of it for a long time.
The blemish, however, doesn’t seem to bother Stanley.
“It was weird — I’ve had a few weird cuts on my head where I don’t know how it happens,” Stanley said with a laugh. “But yeah, it’s all right.”
That comment — and the accompanying chuckle — is a good representation of the dust-yourself-off mentality Stanley has taken across his three starts this season, most recently in a wire-to-wire beating the signal-caller took from the Texas defense in an eventual 42-27 defeat Saturday night at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Playing behind an offensive line that blew assignments all evening, Stanley was sacked four times, hurried twice and simply throttled over and over again, including at the tail end of his seven rush attempts that often ended with a head- or shoulder-first plow into a defender.
While Stanley finished with an uneven statistical performance — he completed 27 of 43 pass attempts for 268 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions — his coach came away in awe of the 6-foot-2, 196-pound quarterback’s toughness.
“I’ll say this about Carter Stanley: That might be one of the toughest cats I’ve ever been around,” said KU coach David Beaty. “They knocked the fool out of that guy today. He is bleeding from every part of his body, and he gets up and he can barely move. He is a tough dude, I give it to him.”
The Jayhawks’ first drive was a sign of things to come for Stanley.
Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu brought the quarterback down with a sack on third-and-10, but an offsides penalty negated the play and gave KU (1-9, 0-7 Big 12) another opportunity. On the ensuing play, Longhorn defensive back Jason Hall eviscerated Stanley in the backfield ahead of an eventual incompletion.
“Speaking of aggression, Jason Hall just unleashed about a season’s worth,” tweeted Wescott Eberts, executive editor of SB Nation’s Burnt Orange Nation.
“That looked like it hurt,” tweeted Horns247, the 247Sports.com account for Texas recruiting.
“Jason Hall just laid the lumber on Kansas QB Carter Stanley,” tweeted Trenton Daeschner, UT beat writer for The Daily Texan. “That was a vicious hit.”
It took Stanley several moments to get up, and there was serious doubt whether he would return for the Jayhawks’ second series — or any other, for that matter. Just minutes later, though, Stanley was back out, guiding a third series that started at the KU 1-yard line.
While that drive ended after just three plays on a 16-yard pick-six touchdown from defensive back Antwuan Davis — the KU offensive line collapsed in seconds against a three-man rush — Stanley’s mere participation at least reinforced some of his teammates’ respect.
“Oh man, I mean, Carter Stanley has been playing through injuries all this year,” said sophomore wide receiver Evan Fairs, who finished with seven receptions for 104 yards. “Even in practice he’s one of our biggest leaders in telling us we can play through injuries. He’s always the one coming in to get extra work, so I understand how he’s able to go through those injuries every game.”
Stanley’s infectious grit doesn’t seem limited to the offensive end, either.
“He’s a strong kid — mentally, physically,” said junior defensive tackle Daniel Wise. “He keeps us goin’, the way he plays.”
Stanley didn’t crack in his postgame interview, either.
He shouldered blame for his three first-half turnovers, including the pick-six, a second interception that led to a Longhorn touchdown and a third in the back of the end zone in the final minute that took at least three points off the board.
He refused to lay blame for the beating he incurred on the offensive line, which has becoming a revolving door of ineffectiveness — “I mean shoot, we’ll look at it on film, but a few of ’em were probably self-inflicted, maybe a time where I could’ve gotten the ball off quicker or just do a better job of protecting myself when I run a little bit,” Stanley said.
And he made sure to shout out teammate Tyler Patrick, who suffered a gruesome season-ending left leg injury in the contest. The wide receiver was hurt while blocking when a defender rolled into him from behind.
“T-Pat’s awesome. Great team player,” Stanley said. “He sacrifices his body on every play.”
If nothing else, Stanley’s first three starts have proven he’s more than qualified to speak on that matter.