Baylor game notes and analysis: defense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' defensive performance in their 49-10 win over Baylor:

In our IT Picks feature last issue, I wrote the following: ". . . the UT D will turn in another solid effort (although, as it does each week, it will fall asleep on at least one BU drive and allow the Bears an easy TD)." That drive came early in the second quarter with the Horns holding a 14-0 lead. After a miserable series by the Texas offense, Baylor took over at the UT 48 following a solid Brian Bradford punt. On two earlier BU drives that began inside Texas territory, the Longhorn D kept the Bears off the board. On this one, Baylor covered the 48 yards to the end zone with ease. On a third and nine from the 47, QB Josh Zachry hit a wide-open Andra Fuller for 15 yards and a first down. After a four-yard keeper, Zachry found Reggie Newhouse wide open in a seam of the Longhorn zone for his only catch of the day, setting up a first and goal for the Bears at the 10. Zachry then waltzed virtually untouched for a TD on a QB draw. The final four plays of the six-play drive covered 47 yards with minimal UT resistance. The D also gave up a far-too-easy one-minute drive to Baylor just before the end of the first half. The Bears, after a squib kick that was returned to the 37, started the drive with just 48 ticks left on the scoreboard clock but drove all the way to the 10 and even took one shot in the end zone before having to settle for a field goal. On the eight-play drive, Baylor completed passes of 11 and 25 yards and Zachry scrambled for another 10. Those two drives accounted for 101 of the Bears' paltry total of 195 yards.

The UT D's most important series came mid-way through the first quarter after a Chris Simms interception set Baylor up at the UT 37. The Bears immediately picked up a quick first down on two running plays, but with BU just 27 yards from the goalline and looking to take an early lead, the Horns stuffed the Bears on three straight plays, forcing a 43-yard field goal attempt that Tyrone Jones blocked, preserving for a moment the 0-0 tie. The Texas offense took over and drove the length of the field to give the Horns a lead they would never relinquish.

During the halftime break, after considering the ease at which Baylor moved the ball at times in the first half, the defensive coaches decided to play more pressure D in the second half by switching to more man coverage, freeing up the front six (in the 4-2-5) or seven (in the 3-4) to attack the line of scrimmage and the QB in the pocket. The strategy shift worked well. The Bears totaled 168 yards in the game's first 30 minutes but managed a meager 27 yards in the final 30. Through nine games, the Texas D has given up just one third quarter score, a TD to New Mexico State in the opener (the Horns have scored 67 points in the third). Opposing Os have totaled just 39 points in the second half, as opposed to 79 in the first half, so far this season, just over four points per game in the final two quarters. As evidenced by the numbers above, Carl Reese deserves high marks for his in-game adjustments this year to counter opposing offenses' early success. For example, switching from man to zone coverage against OSU to slow Rashaun Woods, or adjusting to a 3-3-5 nickel formation from the 4-3 against Colorado, or moving out of the 4-3 to the 4-2-5 against Missouri, or switching from zone to man coverage against Baylor. The adjustment against the Bears freed up LBs Derrick Johnson, D.D. Lewis and Tyrone Jones to pester the BU QBs and limit the effectiveness of the drag handoffs and QB draws in the second half.

Derrick Johnson returned to early season form against the Bears. After totaling just 11 tackles in the Oklahoma State-Colorado-Missouri stretch (before that, he had 13 in the Tech game alone), the true freshman from Waco registered six tackles, including two TFLs and three quarterback hurries vs. Baylor. Unlike the Cowboys, Buffs and Tigers, the Bears spread the field on offense, and Johnson is at his best playing in "space" as Reese likes to say. The DC said the formations and alignments of passing offenses are easier for the relatively inexperienced freshman to read, and he shows particularly good vision on the snap vs. those offenses. DJ, along with alternating starter Everick Rawls, saw the field in both 4-2-5 sets and in 3-4 sets. Overall, Reese is getting great production out of the WILL 'backer spot. Rawls had seven stops in the Baylor game after being near the top of the Texas tackle list over the last three weeks. Based on the non-adjusted Baylor game stats, Rawls and Lewis are tied for third in tackles for the season with 53 each. FS Ahmad Brooks is second with 60, two behind Johnson's team leading 62.

Johnson pulverized Baylor's Zachry in the fourth quarter on an up-the-middle blitz, forcing the QB to the sideline with bruised ribs. On the next play, the true freshman nailed replacement QB Greg Cicero on another blitz. Johnson also should get an assist on Nathan Vasher's second quarter INT. The LB's pressure forced Zachry into a hurried, off-target throw that the sophomore safety picked off, setting up UT's fourth TD of the first half. The Horns scored their final TD with a bit of help from Johnson as well. Facing a second and 11 from the 25, the Baylor center snapped the ball over the head of the Bears' No. 3 QB Davon Vinson. Johnson was the first Texas defender to the ball, but he and Vinson collided at about the two, knocking the ball into the end zone where nickel back Dakarai Pearson recovered it for the score. Pearson led the team in tackles with nine.

Reed Boyd got some fourth quarter snaps alongside Johnson in the Horns' 4-2-5 defensive alignment, meaning the junior played the middle 'backer spot. On one play, Boyd, blitzing from the left side, ran right past Jonathan Golden in the backfield on his way to the QB. Problem was, Golden had the ball, and with Boyd's miss, ended up with a 17-yard gain. Adam Doiron, who totaled four tackles, and Stevie Lee also got a lot of fourth quarter snaps.

Early in the game Marcus Tubbs dominated the Baylor OL he faced, surging into the backfield on every play. He ended up with only three tackles, but his play certainly wreaked havoc on the Baylor offense. Tubbs can be a dominating DT in the future. He's not quite there yet, but if he ever starts to command double teams, which is a possibility, the entire Texas pass rush picture becomes far more favorable. Maurice Gordon also played well, according to head coach Mack Brown, totaling two TFLs, including a sack, on his three tackles.

On Baylor's biggest play of the day, a 32-yard Zachry pass to John Martin, defender Vasher slipped and fell down, leaving Martin wide open for the big gainer.

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