A&M game notes and analysis: defense

Notes and analysis on the Horns' defensive performance in their 21-7 win over A&M:

The Texas defense employed a 4-3 alignment for the majority of the game vs. the Aggies. The Horns also often went to a 3-3-5 set when the Ags came out in four-wides. A&M had by far its most success in the third quarter, gaining 73 yards, but managed just 40, 20 and 32 in the first, second and fourth, respectively, to total 165 for the game. Excluding runs attributed to Mark Farris (UT got to the A&M QB four times for 21 yards in losses and he was credited with a run for a one yard loss), the Ags ran the ball 26 times for 70 yards (2.7 per carry). Redshirt freshman Keith Joseph, who picked A&M over Texas because the Horns offered him a 'ship to play fullback but not tailback, had 23 carries for 71 yards (3.1 per) including the Ags' only TD on a four-yard run in the third quarter.

Defensive coordinator Carl Reese said his tackles played their most consistent, complete game of the season in College Station. Reese particularly praised Maurice Gordon, who registered seven tackles, five QB pressures and one sack (based on the coaches' statistics). Gordon, as he has shown occasionally throughout the season, can have an amazingly quick burst at the snap. He used that ability to slip into the backfield to stop Joseph for a three-yard loss on the Ags' second possession, but the best example came later in the first quarter when Gordon split OLs Seth McKinney (of the binocular-swinging McKinney clan) and Taylor Whitley and dropped Farris for a seven yard loss before the QB completed his drop. "(McKinney) is a good football player and at times he couldn't block (Gordon)," Reese said. Marcus Tubbs had six tackles, including two TFLs and a sack. Both Stevie Lee and Adam Doiron saw limited action. The inside guys, as well as the DEs, LBs, safeties, heck, the whole defense, will face a run-stop challenge this Saturday vs. Colorado, a team that will look to pound the ball up the middle as it did with great success vs. Nebraska.

Reese said he added a new defensive wrinkle for the Aggies, at times moving his ends in a bit and giving them inside gap control rather than lining them up on the outside shoulder of the tackle. "That really helped us in the running game," he said. Ends Cory Redding and Kalen Thornton each had one of their better statistical games because of the switch, Redding totaling five tackles, including a TFL and a sack, and Thornton notching six tackles, including two TFLs. The scheme creates smaller inside gaps for the opposing running game to exploit, which also makes D.D. Lewis' job a bit easier, the D-coordinator said. Look for Reese to employ a similar strategy at times as a change-up against the power running Buffs.

Against the Ags, the Horns played zone coverage about 50-percent of the snaps, Reese said.

The Texas defense prepared heavily to stop A&M's screen passes (the most dangerous weapon in the Aggie offensive arsenal), and in general, the Horns' held those plays in check. Derrick Johnson, who again alternated with Everick Rawls at WILL 'backer, tracked down an early WR screen attempt (after several missed tackles by other UT defenders) for a loss of seven, nickel back Dakarai Pearson stuffed a middle screen to RB Joe Weber for a loss of one in the second quarter, and Lewis forced a fumble, recovered by the Aggies for a loss of four, on a shovel pass to Joseph in the third quarter. The only screen-like play that gained any yardage for A&M came in the middle of the second quarter when Farris tossed to Joseph for 16 yards. On the play, though, the officials missed one of the most obvious holds I've ever seen. Redding probably would have blown up the play before Farris could have throw the ball but the two-second, from-behind jersey grab by an Aggie OL as the junior DE rushed the QB.

Late in the second quarter, FS Ahmad Brooks intercepted a Farris deep ball intended for Terrence Thomas, falling to the grass with his bounty at the Texas five. If Brooks had kept his feet, he might have returned the INT 20-plus yards. Unfortunately, the college rule that a player who goes to the ground is down regardless of whether an opposing player forced him down or not applied, turning the great defensive play into a potential A&M advantage. The UT O, though, moved the ball out of the shadow of the goalline to around midfield before being forced to punt into the wind.

The Aggies tried a bit of trickery on their first offensive play of the third quarter (from the Texas 27 following a Mickey Jones 37-yard punt return), with Farris throwing right to WR Greg Porter who then wheeled and threw back to Farris. That is just the type of misdirection play that has totally fooled Horn defenders in the recent past, but RDE Thornton stayed home and stuffed Farris six yards behind the line of scrimmage, pushing the Ags back to the 33. On the next play, though, Farris found true freshman wideout Terrence Murphy open on Quentin Jammer (one of only two passes completed on Jammer on the day) for 11 yards, setting up a third-and-five from the 22. With no significant UT pressure, Farris rolled right and threw for Porter, who made a spectacular one-handed catch to give A&M a first down at the Texas 8. Two four-yard Joseph runs later and the Horns found themselves in a 7-7 ballgame. With the wind, the Aggies crossed midfield twice later in the third quarter but didn't come close to scoring, getting to the 44 and the 49 before the Texas D forced a punt. In the fourth quarter, A&M advanced only to its own nine, 28, 19 and 47 (where the clock ran out on its final desperation drive).

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