Time for the Defense to Git'R Done

My bad. It's on me. We're disappointed. We'll step up. These were Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik's sentiments after the Texas defense uncharacteristically floundered at key moments during Saturday's loss against top-ranked Ohio State. How quickly can they become the consistently stalwart unit expected to carry the load until the offense settles in with its new QB?

"We've got to see a definitive improvement every week in our defense," Chizik said. "This gives us a good gauge of where we weren't very good."

Overall, the defense did not play poorly in Saturday's 24-7 loss. There were "a lot of positives", Chizik said, citing a very physical run defense, the three sacks against an elusive QB and the hitting. It's just that "the negatives popped up at bad times. That's where we've got to get better. There was a lot of things that were very pleasing in the game but, against a team like that and an offense like that, you've got to play to solid like that all day."

Notably, there were breakdowns when the defense did get a stop following the 48-yard fumble return to midfield, the 29-yard TD toss to Ted Ginn Jr. just before halftime and the TD drive after Greg Johnson's 45-yard FG attempt sailed wide right.

"I don't think we're in a bad way," he said. "I just think, in a big game and at critical times, I'm disappointed in how we performed. I thought we'd play better. They were very disappointed; coaches were disappointed. We always speak up and tell it like it is, and there was no one in the (defensive players) room who could deny anything that we talked about it."

Criticizing Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis has become standard while critiquing Co-Defense Coordinator Gene Chizik almost seems like a sacrilege. Chizik would be the first to admit that the last 10 quarters of football (including the second half of the Rose Bowl) fell below what he considers the standard for Longhorn defense. The final 30 minutes of the BCS National Championship game (save for that glorious stand on 4th-and-two) was frustrating, he said recently, because Texas had not stopped USC the entire half. He also "guessed wrong" about how Ohio State and North Texas would attack.

Chizik obviously had a short deck Saturday, what with injuries and off-the-field-attrition (for which he has never made excuses), but the Buckeyes had just two returning starters. Who knows how extensively Tarell Brown's one-game suspension torpedoes Chizik's game plan? Like nearly all DCs, Chizik schemes to stop the run first. It's just that he thought Ohio State would feature it's running game, despite the fact that Texas was missing its best cover-corner (Brown).

Buckeye wideouts confounded the Texas DBs with pre-snap shifts. The Horns mixed-and-matched their coverage, but the zone defense was awfully soft. Buckeye receivers enjoyed a considerable cushion at the LOS; they exploited RCB Tarell Brown's absence as lightly-regarded WR Anthony Gonzalez enjoyed a career night. The linebackers were MIA in pass-coverage and totaled just eight tackles between them. The D-Line was a bright spot, limiting OSU to 79 yards on 29 attempts, but allowed the Buckeyes to out-physical them on their final TD drive. .

"We didn't get the job done on defense, and that starts with me," Chizik said. "It's that simple. That's all that matters. We're going to work hard this week to make sure it doesn't happen again. The mistakes are absolutely correctable, and they will be. That will happen."

The operative word in practice this week is 'accountability.'

"We've made it very clear that nobody's position is sacred," Chizik said. "If someone's playing better than you, they're going to play. But that's Day One stuff. When they watched the film, they know how they played. And they know that we know how they played."

Bottom line: it's time for the Texas defense to step-up. (It's past time, actually). Because the defense that was on the field against Ohio State gets beat at Texas Tech, and quite possibly against Oklahoma and Nebraska. Then again, it won't be the same defense, personnel-wise. RCB Tarell Brown will be back in the starting lineup this Saturday at Rice, DB Coach Duane Akina said. WLB Drew Kelson could finally see action this weekend after missing the first two games with an ankle injury. SLB Sergio Kindle has finally returned to practice, coaches reported, and it's just a matter of time before he gets on the field. RS-freshman Roddrick Muckelroy, who subbed for Kelson these past two ballgames, is the most prototypical and talented (albeit raw) of any of the Longhorn linebackers who have seen action this season. Not to make excuses for the Ohio State breakdowns, but FS Marcus Griffin played hurt for nearly three quarters while DE Brian Robison has played with the lingering stages of pneumonia.

"In an odd kind of way, it's a learning experience that happened early in the season," Chizik said. "It could very well be a blessing in disguise."

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