Tech game notes and analysis: defense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' defensive performance in their 42-7 win over Texas Tech:

Obviously, the Horns had a bit of a surprise in store for Tech Saturday night. Actually, I think it was a surprise to just about everybody. Although both Mack Brown and Carl Reese said throughout last week that they intended to get Derrick Johnson more snaps, Reese going so far as to say that Johnson might start depending on UT's opening defensive package, neither coach tipped the fact that Johnson would be on the field along with three other linebackers in a 3-4 set. But there they were, D.D. Lewis, Tyrone Jones, Everick Rawls and Johnson on the Raiders' opening offensive snap, and there they stayed most of the night. Interestingly, on Tech's only scoring drive of the night, the Horns used a three DL, three LB, five DB set rather than the three DL, four LB, four DB set.

Tech scored its only TD on a fourth-and-two play from the Texas 31. On the play, the Raiders worked out of a four-wide set with QB Kliff Kingsbury under center and tailback Ricky Williams alone in the backfield. On the snap, Kingsbury turned and handed to Williams who broke free up the middle, slipping past Maurice Gordon at the line of scrimmage and scampering almost untouched from there to the end zone. With the safeties in pass coverage, MLB Lewis should have been the Horns last line of defense on the play, but Lewis moved left on the snap of the ball, leaving the gaping hole up the middle that Williams blew through on his scoring jaunt.

Aside from that glaring defensive breakdown, the Texas D held the Tech O relatively in check. On their first two possessions, the Raiders managed 28 yards and just one first down despite having some success on first down. On the opening possession of the game, Tech gained nine yards on first before the Longhorn D stuffed consecutive Williams runs for no gain, forcing the Red Raiders to punt. Tech gained eight yards and then seven yards on first downs on its next possession, but after the second big gain, the Texas D stiffened and forced another Raider punt. Later in the game, Tech failed to convert on a fourth-and-two, another fourth-and-two and a fourth-and-three. Reese said his defenders did a good job controlling the gaps and outnumbering the running game in short yardage situations.

On its scoring drive, the Raiders used quick hitters of five, eight, 20 and three yards plus a short run and a Marcus Tubbs off-sides penalty to move down the field and set up Williams' 31-yard run. Tech picked on the Texas safeties on the drive, completing passes on Nathan Vasher (the eight-yarder) and Dakarai Pearson (the 20-yarder to TE Cole Roberts).

The Horns stopped the Raiders on five fourth down attempts. The first came early in the second quarter with Texas on top 21-7. Tech had moved into UT territory to the 44, but on third-and-two, Quentin Jammer flew into Roberts breaking up the pass play and forcing a fourth down attempt. On the fourth down play, Tech went to its primary pass-catching target Williams coming out of the backfield, but Derrick Johnson got to the speedy RB before he could turn upfield and Rawls and then Jammer helped bring down Williams for a three-yard loss and a change of possession. "He did really well," Brown said of his true freshman linebacker after his first collegiate start. "He gets from here to there faster than anyone I've ever seen . . . and he blows you up when he gets there and we need that." Johnson blew up several plays with his speed and hard hits, but the biggest hit in the Horns' hardest hitting performance since the Tech game of '99 came on another fourth down attempt later in the game. Trailing 35-7 mid-way through the third quarter, Tech coach Mike Leach called a fake punt on a fourth-and-three from the Raider 44. The punter took the deep snap and heaved the ball for WR Carlos Francis streaking down the right hash on Jammer. Return man Vasher, though, saw the play developing in front of him and plotted a collision course for Francis, hitting him while in full stride, jarring the ball loose and denying Tech success on its desperation play. Rod Babers said the secondary members were not pleased with their poor performance last week in Houston and they were fired up for Tech's challenge, particularly after Leach talked down the ability of the Texas corners. "We wanted to go out there and make plays and show 'em we're not just average players," the junior corner said. Jammer, the target of Leach's verbal barbs, said he used Leach's "he's-a-decent-corner" comments as motivation. The senior didn't totally shut down his receiver, giving up a 15-yarder to Francis on a fourth-and-six late in the first half and a nine-yarder on an out route to Darrell Jones early in the fourth quarter, but overall he played his best game of the season. Perhaps the Tech coach's comments awoke Jammer for his early season slumber. If so, it couldn't have happened at a better time with the Sooners on deck.

The defense missed several tackles again this week, but it did a far better job than last week in Houston. Rawls in particular let a couple of Tech receivers slip free, once on a seven-yard pass early in the game and again later on a five-yard pass. Both plays could have been stopped for little to no gain with a better tackling effort. D.D. also missed Ricky Williams in the backfield in the second quarter, but the play came back because of a holding call elsewhere on the field. Johnson didn't have any obvious missed tackles and the ones he made almost exclusively stopped Tech at or near its line of scrimmage. Based on the play-by-play in the official stats, Johnson made tackles for no gain, for a gain of three, for a loss of three, for a gain of two, for a gain of three, for a gain of one, for a loss of nine, and, for a gain of 10. So not only is Johnson often around the ball carrier or receiver, he's around them before they get down field.

Reese said the Horns played zone defense for about 95-percent of the game. Texas also seldom rushed more than three (and sometimes only two) by design and did not get to Kingsbury until late in the game when Johnson caught the Tech quarterback in the backfield for a nine-yard loss late in the game (for more on the defensive gameplan see Upon further review, still a dominant performance). Gordon followed that up two plays later with a sack for a 10-yard loss. Brown said post-game that the D's gameplan was to keep the Raiders contained. "(Tech) did a great job with the underneath pass but those were like runs," the head coach said. The visitors only ran the ball 9 times (for 56 yards -- that figure does not include the two sacks of Kingsbury), but as Brown pointed out, their short passing game essentially substitutes for the run (although not necessarily effectively). Tech threw the ball 58 times, completing 40 for 260 yards (6.5 yards per completion and less than 4.5 yards per attempt), with the vast majority of those attempts dump passes and quick throws around the line of scrimmage. Jammer said he expected to see more deep balls, but UT's zone coverage forced Kingsbury into throwing the ball underneath. The Texas corner said he expects OU to mix it up more, including going downfield.

The Texas D defended the shovel pass fairly well Saturday night, stopping it early on for a reasonable six-yard gain (reasonable compared to in the past when teams, like Tech and Oklahoma, would gain 10-plus every time on the play) before stuffing the play for losses of three and then seven yards later in the game. It's a play the Horns are sure to see from the Sooners and Quentin Griffin in Dallas Saturday.

Vasher almost had his second pick of the season in the second quarter Saturday. Kingsbury tried to hit RB Wes Welker on a quick slant to the left side of the field, but the Horns sophomore safety stepped in front of the pass and may have taken it the 25 or so yards to the end zone if he had held on for the INT.


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