Texas-Baylor Analysis

From a strong defensive period for the Longhorns to notes on Joe Bergeron and Josh Turner, here are three thoughts on Texas's 56-50 win over Baylor.

Different Narrative

Of course, the popular narrative after Texas's 56-50 win over Baylor will involve how the defense-challenged Longhorns allowed more than 600 yards and 50 points in surviving yet another shootout.

But look closer, and I think there's a different one that can be found. Between the time that Lanier Sampson caught a seven-yard touchdown pass with 11:45 left in the second quarter, and when Nick Florence snuck in on a fourth-down play with 1:57 remaining in the game, the Bears found the end zone exactly once.

That's not a typo. For a span of nearly 40 minutes, Baylor went into the end zone once, when Florence was stripped, and the ball fell into the end zone, where it was recovered by Bear tight end Jordan Najvar. Over that period, the Bears scored 15 points … six from the fumble recovery and nine from a trio of made field goals.

Obviously, it wasn't a perfect defensive effort by the Longhorns, or even one that most teams would write home about. And the Bears still moved the ball well through that period. But Texas clamped down when it needed the most. And if that pace were applied to a full game, Texas would have held one of the nation's most explosive offenses to 23 points.

This is a defense that, at this point, isn't a lock-down unit. So naturally, you're searching for any signs that it could be. And I think that for most of Saturday's game, Texas showed that it could compete at a high level there. The key is 1) applying that to a whole game, which the Longhorns haven't been able to do against a big-time spread offense and 2) starting to get stops earlier on drives, so they don't result in any points, and also gives the offense better field position.

Joe Bergeron

This was the best Bergeron has looked since the opener, and arguably even since last year. Ignore the fact that he scored five touchdowns. Well, don't ignore it. But set it to the side. Here's the thing: only one of those five touchdowns was in a short-yardage (three yards or less) situation. Bergeron broke his first touchdown run 15 yards, leaping to get into the end zone. He followed that with a two-yard run, then, on one of his more impressive runs, got the corner on a sweep and ran in from nine yards out. Bergeron's other two touchdowns came from four and eight yards.

Bergeron looked quicker and more spry, miles away from the back who seemed to be passed by Johnathan Gray in Texas's pecking order the past few weeks. And while Gray himself had a nice game, finding the end zone for the first time in his Longhorn career, Texas fans will take 19 carries from Bergeron if he's averaging 6.2 yards per carry, and running with the consistency, agility and force he did on Saturday.

Josh Turner With a Nice Night

Anybody who thinks that the Longhorns don't have leaders defensively should be introduced to Kenny Vaccaro. Texas's force-of-nature at safety was asked about the play of Turner, who stood out Saturday with six tackles, half a tackle for loss and an interception. And while Vaccaro spoke well of Turner's performance, he also said that he was quick to point out to the sophomore safety that one game doesn't mean anything, and that Turner needs to bring that performance every week.

The Longhorns have a chance to be salty against the pass when Turner and safety mate Mykkele Thompson are in the ball game because of the athleticism they bring to the position. And if Turner can emerge as a viable option, that allows Vaccaro to play down at the second level without too much fear of what's going on behind him. Vaccaro himself had another great game, making eight tackles, having one tackle for loss and forcing a fumble.

Thompson had an outstanding performance against West Virginia, and is still trying to recapture that lightning in a bottle. And it speaks well of Vaccaro that he's trying to get Turner to realize that he hasn't made it just yet.

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