After opening the season against Notre Dame, Rice and Cal, the Longhorns were giving up 241 yards rushing per game (including 280 vs Cal), allowing opponents to convert third down 56 percent of the time (33 percent or less is considered acceptable to Charlie Strong) and UT was giving up 37 points per game.
But in the four Big 12 games since (vs Oklahoma State, TCU, OU and K-State), the Texas defense is No. 1 in the league against the run (133.2 ypg), allowing opponents to convert third down 39 percent of the time and giving up 26.5 ppg.
UT's defense, which had 7 sacks through the first five games of the season (primarily because offenses were able to run the ball and weren't in obvious passing situations) has recorded 11 sacks the past two games (vs OU, K-State).
So what changed?
Here are 5 REASONS WHY TEXAS' DEFENSE IS NOW WRECKING SHOP:
#1 ... DTs Hassan Ridgeway, Poona Ford and Paul Boyette are healthy and happy
Ridgeway missed the first part of training camp with a lower back injury, and Ford was dealing with a nagging shoulder injury. Both finally felt recovered from the injuries for the Oklahoma game and played like it. Along with Boyette, Ridgeway and Ford have been pressuring QBs and stopping the run on the way to the passer.
#2 ... Peter Jinkens is playing like a man on a mission
Jinkens has always been the "hype man" on the Texas defense even while waiting patiently behind Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond last season.
Full of positive energy (always dancing, singing for teammates in the locker room, at practice and pumping them up on the sideline and in the huddle, Jinkens is now more than hype.
Jinkens is the leading tackler on the team.
He's the linebacker coaches most trust to drop into coverage correctly. And increased film study has him anticipating down-and-distance situations/tendencies better, and thus he's making big plays at key times (including a fourth-quarter sack last week against K-State). Jinkens made a great play to start the TCU game, dropping QB Trevone Boykin for a 3-yard loss on third-and-1, forcing a punt on the Horned Frogs' opening series.
But the play got lost amid all the Texas mistakes made in that game. That kind of play, however, is happening more and more from Jinkens and will be needed every week if the Horns hope to become bowl eligible.
#3 ... Freshmen corners Holton Hill and DaVante Davis holding up in man coverage allowing more single-high safety
The coaches finally trusted Hill and Davis to be left alone in man coverage against Oklahoma. And the coaches trusted them to play man at the line of scrimmage - and get a jam - rather than lining them up 5 yards off the ball to try to keep QBs guessing about if Texas was in man or zone.
With Hill and Davis able to handle the outside at corner and not needing safety help, Vance Bedford has been able to drop safeties Jason Hall or Dylan Haines into the box to help stop the run or serve as a blitzer in zone pressures while leaving the other playing center field.
#4 ... Duke Thomas playing the nickel
Thomas is better in the nickel because he he's good matchup for speed receivers whom opponents like to try and hide in the slot, hoping to get a matchup against a linebacker or against a stiff-hipped safety.
Thomas is also a good enough tackler to hold up against the run - a huge responsibility as the nickel back. And he's a good enough blitzer to get home with a pressure, hit or sack.
#5 ... UT's run offense finally giving defense a rest
After Texas' offense averaged 24:24 in time of possession the first five games, including having the ball a scant 15:58 against Rice, the Horns are averaging 31:18 vs OU and K-State, when Texas averaged 55.5 rushing attempts per game.
Think back to the Notre Dame game, when the Texas offense had 10 possessions with 8 three-and-outs and none of those drives last longer than 2:35. UT's D was on the field nearly 40 minutes against the Irish and nearly 45 minutes vs Rice.
Texas' first three drives on offense against K-State were: 15 plays (6:19 TOP), 13 plays (5:18 TOP) and 8 plays (3:32 TOP). The Longhorns' D is finally getting a breather and getting some hope from UT's offense.