A Defensive Difference

Texas' halftime lead of 35-3 over Missouri was astounding, but perhaps more impressive than the 35 is the 3. It was a strong performance from a Longhorn D that has improved each week of then season.


No. 3 is where the Missouri Tigers were ranked in the nation in passing offense, total offense and scoring heading into their Saturday match-up with Texas. When the Horns opened the game by stuffing the Tiger offense and immediately forcing a punt, it was only the third three-and-out on the year for a mind-bogglingly productive Missouri offense.

Yet 3 is the number of points the Horns held the Tigers to in the first half of Texas' 56-31 win that was much more of a blowout than the final score indicates. A big part of that was a Longhorn D that coordinator Will Muschamp has helped forge into a cohesive unit.

True, the Longhorns were very, very impressive on offense (Colt McCoy completing over 90 percent of his passes, for example), but as unbelievable as some of the numbers are, it was expected that Texas would have a strong offensive game on Saturday. What wasn't expected was that Missouri, which up until the start of Saturday's game was putting up ridiculous numbers, would get completely shut down on offense to start the game.

There were a number of reasons for the unexpected collapse of the Missouri attack, but the main reason was the Missouri offensive line getting collapsed by the Texas D-line. It started on the first play of the game, when DT Roy Miller flew through and slammed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to the turf as he was coming around on a reverse. It set the tone for what would be a long day for Tiger QB Chase Daniel.

Senior defensive end Brian Orakpo, who was credited with three hurries on Daniel, said after the game that he and his fellow defensive linemen knew exactly how important getting to the quarterback was going to be.

"We played relentlessly, tried to get after it and put pressure in (Daniel's) face, to cause interceptions, bad passes and batted balls. It was the whole nine yards," said Orakpo. "I thought we did a great job of trying to disrupt him and to get him out of his rhythm."

And Ryan Palmer thanks you. At the start of the fourth quarter the senior cornerback was a beneficiary of that pressure, when Orakpo nailed Daniel in the Tigers' end zone, causing the pass to flutter right into Palmer's arms for the pick.

"It's amazing. I can't thank (the defensive linemen) enough for what they do," said Palmer. "They got pressure even though Missouri has wide splits they're still busting their butts trying to get to the quarterback."

Palmer wasn't the only one who thought Texas' defensive performance was amazing, as the game was expected by most so-called "experts" -- myself included -- to be a shootout from start to finish. But none of it surprised the soft-spoken junior LB Roddrick Muckelroy, who once again led the Longhorns in tackles with nine on the night.

"Coach Muschamp had us prepared coming into this game so we knew what the offense was capable of doing. We knew what they were going to do so we just stayed focused on those things," said Muckelroy.

All of this elicits a question. Exactly how good has this D gotten?

Here's an oddly coincidental statistic that puts it in perspective. The total number of rushing yards Texas has given up this season (337) is the exact same as the number of points Texas has scored (337).

Seriously. Let me repeat that. For every yard the Longhorns have given up on the ground, they've scored a point.

In terms of pass defense, the Horns are currently ranked 111th in yardage (275 ypg), but they're also rated much better in passing efficiency defense, ranked No. 72 in the country (125.78). Add onto that 24 sacks (No. 4 in the nation) and you've got a pass defense that is more than meets the eye.

Because of how important the QB position has become, perhaps the best indicator is pressure. If Saturday -- or any other game this season for that matter -- is any indication, Texas is in very good shape in its hunt for a national title.

Quite a change for team that was supposed to be lucky to win 10 games.

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