'Chess Match' Went To Robinson

When he was hired, Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson told Texas coach Mack Brown his style of defense might give up a lot of yards but not a bunch of points. The Horns’ defensive effort in the 51-21 win at Texas Tech was vintage Robinson in what Brown described Monday as a "chess match" with Red Raider coach Mike Leach.

"We did a great job of taking the running lanes away as they were rushing the passer Saturday and I think that’s something people weren’t aware of us as they watched that game," Brown said.

Robinson also told Brown last spring that he intended to keep things simple in the early going in order to emphasize the fundamentals of tackling, including lining up right, proper pursuit angles and shedding blocks.

"We held some things in the early games that we’re starting to incorporate now so we’re still in the learning process," Brown said. "We messed some alignments up Saturday night but I was amazed with as many different packages that we used that we didn’t have 10 or 12 on the field. They did a great job of organization on the sideline."

Tech entered the game averaging 39.1 ppg and 514.8 ypg. But by the time Texas extended its lead to 48-14 and began to substitute liberally with 9:15 remaining, Robinson’s D had held the Red Raiders to 247 total yards. Texas is currently rated No. 33 in total defense (320 ypg) but No. 12 in scoring D, surrendering little more than 14 ppg. Tech’s 21 points were the fewest produced in Lubbock during Leach’s five-year tenure.

Predicated upon a turnover-forcing, swarming defense that plays with such heightened intensity that it requires plumbing the two-deep chart, Robinson went with steady doses of zone blitzes (where you bring a linebacker, drop a lineman back and play zone behind it), mix of man and zone coverage, plus some match-ups where the defense played zone and man simultaneously. Safeties blitzed while cornerbacks faked blitzes. DT Frank Okam took most of his snaps at DE, SLB Eric Hall was the designated "spinner" while MLB Aaron Harris ‘spied’ on Tech RB Taurean Henderson.

And it was backup RDE Aurmon Satchell who produced the game’s first standout defensive play when he dropped back into coverage before stepping in front of a Sonny Cumbie pass and returning the pick 26 yards to the Tech 25-yard line.

"When you have a zone blitz and your first interception was to a backup defense end, then that’s pretty good," Brown said. "That sends a great message."

During the second quarter, Leach went with five-wides in part to get a better grasp on Robinson’s coverage schemes.

"That was (Leach’s) early adjustment in the game," Brown said. "He took the running backs out and said, ‘I’m gonna dink ya until you get out of it.’ But Greg didn’t quit. We kept coming and coming, and changing up, so it was a chess game throughout that second quarter."

Texas held Tech to 82 yards in the second quarter and then just 16 in the third frame, a 15-minute block that Tech had dominated offensively all season.

"That was the difference in the ball game," Brown said, as Texas extended its 24-14 halftime lead by reeling off 27 unanswered points.

"I don’t think they made a yard on the screen (pass) and they had minus-17 yards rushing," Brown said. "Last year they had 162 yards rushing and more on the screens. To beat Tech, you’ve got to take away the running game and the screens. Our guys did a great job of that Saturday. That’s what had to happen, as simple as it sounds. They outrushed us two years ago in Lubbock, plus their screens. People didn’t talk about that. There are parts of that offense that people don’t talk about that are really damaging to you."

The old adage is that offense sells tickets and defense wins games, but QB Vince Young and RB Cedric Benson turned in winning performances. Young was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after accounting for a personal best 300 yards of total offense (10-of-15 passing for 142 yards, 158 rushing, plus a school QB record with four rushing TDs).

Benson rushed for 168 yards to become just the fifth back in NCAA history to run for 1,000-plus yards in four straight seasons. It was originally reported that Benson was the sixth RB to accomplish the feat but, upon further review, West Virginia’s Avon Cobourne is no longer included on the list (despite protests from Mountaineer athletic officials). The NCAA-recognized list is five since WVU included bowl game stats in one of Cobourne seasons before post-season stats were recognized in 2002. (If bowl game stats were retroactively included then RB Ricky Williams would be on the list as well.)

"We thought the run that Cedric made right before the half, and the play that Vince made to (FL) Tony Jeffery were huge for taking confidence in (to the locker room) and getting the ball coming out in the third quarter," Brown said. "I’m sure at halftime, Tech had the screaming and shouting that they’re going to have to get after our ass."

WLB Derrick Johnson said the shellacking Saturday ranks as his favorite road win as a Longhorn.

"I didn’t have a lot of tackles but I had a lot of fun out there," he said. "Everybody on the team did something different. It was a fun game. We were asking, ‘Are we going to do this disguise?’ We were laughing and talking to ourselves out there. I mean, it was a fun deal."

No. 8/9 Texas is currently on a road swing where it plays three-of-four teams away from DKR. Texas faces Colorado in Boulder, 2:30 p.m. (CDT) in an ABC regional telecast.

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