Toeing the Line: Defensive Front Steps Up

Appropriately, it was a member of the Longhorn defensive line that preserved Texas' 17-14 win at No. 17 Kansas State Saturday when DT <B>Marcus Tubbs </b>split the guards to block <B>Jared Brite's </b>37-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game in the closing seconds.

It was, after all, the D-line's best outing of the year, head coach Mack Brown said Sunday. UT's game plan was predicated on just that kind of performance, as Texas stacked the line of scrimmage to contain the Kansas State option attack that had been gobbling up 416 yards per game. The defense held the Wildcat offense to 261 total yards.

"We wanted to keep nine in the box all the time," Brown said. "We didn't stop the run against OU. We felt that if we could stop the run and force them to throw, it would be our best chance of winning the game."

LDE Cory Redding turned in his best day at the office, registering nine tackles and two quarterback sacks.

"He just played so very well," Brown said. "One of reasons they had trouble on the option is because he was knocking the heck out of the quarterback. It slows down the option when you have to look up and find (Redding) before you run it."

WLB Derrick Johnson also contributed eight tackles, while RDE Kalen Thornton was another reason why KSU QB Ell Roberson spent as much time running for his life as he did running the option. (Consider Thornton fully recovered from off-season reconstructive knee surgery.)

Meanwhile, when freshman DT Rodrique Wright is remembered years from now as one of the most heralded defensive lineman ever to wear the Burnt Orange, the old-timers will harken back to the 2002 KSU game as the night in which the youngster grew up. Wright was relentless in pressuring Roberson and added eight tackles and one sack.

"Rod has been up and down some this year, which means he's played like a freshman," Brown said, "but last night he played like he was older. He penetrated, and he made some key plays. Rod's (previous) playing time as a freshman really helped him in a game like this."

Sophomore DT Stevie Lee also "hung in there" for 17 plays, Brown said. Lee contributed three assisted tackles.

If the D-line has an Achilles' Heel, it is containing scrambling quarterbacks like Roberson (a mere precursor to Iowa State QB Seneca Wallace who looks to revive his Heisman campaign against Texas at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at DKR), slippery little scatbacks like 5-7 RB Darren Sproles, and bursts up the middle. Moving away from the three-man front (in the nickel package) helped control the ground game Saturday as defensive coordinator stuck to his plan of implementing a basic, four-man alignment, heavy linebacker blitzes and bringing up the secondary.

Sixty-one of Sprole's 136 yards came on a single carry when he found daylight against a stacked front (the other 75 yards came on 19 carries).

Marcus Tubbs was credited with only one tackle, but had the final say. The junior also blocked a field goal attempt against Tulane last month to preserve the defense's second shut out of the year.

"Marcus has played really, really well this year," Brown said. "He's playing as well as I've ever seen him play."

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