Time for Texas to Get Defensive

Greg Davis-bashers can take a week off. It's time to ask questions about a Texas defense that continues to miss tackles and allows opposing QBs to look like Tom Brady.

Texas has yielded more yards the past two games (1,041) than it has during any two-game stretch of the Mack Brown era. It has forced the Texas offense to rally from a 14-point deficit against woeful Nebraska before the 21-point comeback Saturday at Oklahoma State, the biggest fourth-quarter rally in Longhorn history. Now, NCAA passing leader Texas Tech and its freak show offense (482.1 ypg) descend upon Austin this Saturday for Senior Day.

Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson enjoyed a career-best 30-of-42 passing for 430 yards, but perhaps most excruciating of all was his success on third-and-long. The Cowboys were 8-of-11 on third down conversions by halftime and Robinson connected on 10-of-12 third-down passes on the day. Meanwhile, Nebraska QB Sam Keller (before DE Eddie Jones ended his collegiate career with a fourth quarter hit) enjoyed an efficient outing against the Horns, completing 29-of-35 for 298 yards. In both games, there were some notable self-inflicted wounds courtesy of busted assignments, but it all begins with the deficiencies that have vexed Mack Brown's teams for at least five seasons: failure to consistently pressure the QB and spotty play from linebackers.

"We're not getting enough pass rush," Brown said Monday. " Last week (against Nebraska), our linebackers didn't do a good job on two-deep of funneling the receivers down the middle, let 'em go free. Everybody blamed the secondary against Nebraska. This week (against Oklahoma State), I thought we just didn't play well. We just had guys wide open and mismatches and we're probably trying to do too much. They came in and did totally opposite of what they'd been doing. They'd been running the ball against everybody and throwing some. They threw it a bunch against us. That's where it started, spreading us out and caught us off balance."

Missed tackles led to 157 additional yards in Stillwater, Longhorn coaches reported.

"We're pursuing the ball well but, at times, our angles were too high," Co-Defensive Coordinator Duane Akina said. "(Oklahoma State RB Dantrell) Savage is a tough tackle. He makes a living in the open field. We've got to get more than one guy there at a time."

It was a matter of "picking your poison" in Stillwater, Akina said. Okie State not only entered the game as the Big 12's top rushing team, but also boasting the league's most balanced offense (averaging 230+ yards rushing and 230+ passing).

"When another team runs the ball well," Akina continued, "you have to build eight-man fronts and that's the best time for an offense to get play-action passes and throw the verticals. That's when you can get your big plays. But we have to get back on track. We've regressed in that area."

Texas was particularly vulnerable to passes over the middle against Nebraska and then to throwback passes in Stillwater.

"It was play that they had (previously) not shown," Akina noted, after OSU had two weeks to prepare for Texas. "They had never shown that play last year or in year's prior."

But it's not like Texas hadn't seen it before.

"It was much like the play against Iowa (Alamo Bowl) and much like Kansas State when we played them up there (2006)," Akina continued. "(Former KSU coach Bill) Snyder ran it on us up there in 2002 for a critical first down that led to a touchdown down the stretch. The throwback is great play that you've really got to drill on."

Yet, the Texas defense finally emerged as a bend-but-don't-break unit the past contests, allowing a resurgent Longhorn rushing offense to erase double-digit deficits. Oklahoma State would move the chains on just two of seven third-down conversions following intermission. They went scoreless on five straight possessions and, of course, tallied just one TD during the final 30 minutes. The defensive inconsistencies between the first and second halves, however, remains "puzzling", Akina said.

"I wish I could tell you we drew up some new, magical defenses," Akina said. "It was a lot of the same, but there was more of a sense of urgency in the second half."

Kickoff against Texas Tech is set for 2:30 p.m. (CST) on ABC-Sports.

Horns Digest Top Stories