2011 Texas-BYU Post Mortem: Defense/Special Teams

Coming into the game, I didn't see how BYU was going to get downfield in the passing game so our success hinged on minimizing assignment busts, tackling, and annihilating their running game. We answered all of those questions. Ultimately, the defense won the game and that's being overshadowed by the excitement of the QB controversy.

Jake Heaps was 22 of 38 for 192 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs. A miserable 8.7 yards per completion and 5.0 Yards Per Attempt. He had a ten throw stretch in the 2nd quarter where he was very effective, but other than that, he looked like he was struggling to find places to throw the ball. BYU's longest pass play went for 27 yards and their longest run went for 9. Not only did we keep the Cougar offense in front of us, but once we strangled their running game, we started to pick the wings off of their short passing game with man coverage, exotic fronts, and increased pressure on Heaps.

I had Heaps at 7 of 14 for 39 yards and an interception in the 2nd half. Given the efficiency of BYU's short passing game offense, that's complete domination. And BYU's run offense was never a factor in the game thanks to our front 7. We also saw in the second half what Manny Diaz's defense can do when it gets offenses in predictable passing situations while the first half was all about resiliency. BYU managed 13 points and only 168 yards on 41 first half offensive plays despite starting field positions on the BYU 42, Texas 37, Texas 43, BYU 39 and a Texas offense that went three and out on 4 of its first 5 possessions.

The 97 yard drive was the lone, puzzling hiccup.

The rest of BYU's 11 drives combined for 138 yards and they scored 3s instead of 6s. I'll take that. Particularly when we held them to 3 second half points and their last three possessions of the game were all three and outs. Too clutchy. We rotated a lot of players throughout the game and it showed in the final quarter.

DL

Really pleased with our interior DL. Best game we've seen from them in some time as a collective unit. Almost everyone on the depth chart played and contributed heavily and they'll need to do so again against UCLA. We shut down the run without committing numbers and they were the reason. Ashton Dorsey flashed with a sack and a tfl and consistently caused log jams inside with low pads and a good burst, Calvin Howell had some nice moments, Desmond Jackson and even Chris Whaley gave us some great snaps. Kheeston Randall was a rock and though he had only 3 tackles, he created some pile-ups and bounce outs that our LBs cleaned up with ease.

Jeffcoat had a bad outing. A foolish 3rd down personal foul brought back memories of last year's OU game, he lost contain three times in the running game, made little impact on BYU's #2 OT pass rushing and lolly gagged pursuing a screen. Alex Okafor didn't rock the stat sheet, but he was very active playing against the best NFL prospect on the field. Had some great zone drops in pass coverage too. I have no concerns for Okafor. He's fine. He would have had the sack on Heaps if Dorsey hadn't beaten him to it.

LBs

Jordan Hicks (11 tackles) was all over the field. He's just scratching the surface. Acho was very productive with 13 tackles, 1 QB Hit, 1 pass break up. If he can catch some of the balls he gets to, it would be a huge boon the defense. Keenan Robinson might have been quiet in the box score with 5 tackles, but he was stubborn inside and really played with some toughness. I really needed to see that before UCLA. He covers a hell of a lot of ground when he takes his drops and it must be irritating for a QB to look at our defense's pre-snap shifts and know that we can still cover out of 6 man fronts or blitz out of 3.

What most impressed me about the LBs is the number of plays that they negated, particularly in the 2nd half when we went to man coverage and they had man or basic area responsibilities on BYU's RBs, TEs and WRs running crossing routes. This is a huge part of the BYU offense (read: their entire offense) and they helped to take it away. It doesn't show directly on the stat sheet, but it was a huge part of our team defense.

DBs

Our young cornerbacks are booty juice filtered through Oprah Winfrey's bunion pads nasty. Carrington Byndom had a hell of a game. So competitive. Great open field tackling, particularly when it mattered most. Most of us recall his dramatic open field tackle in the 4th quarter on 3rd down, but I was as impressed with a tackle he made on BYU's 6-5 250 TE Holt after he was hit on wide open play action and attacked Byndom with a head of steam, Carrington took his lick, made Holt feel it too, and he popped up like it was just another day at the office. Chykie Brown in run support now a distant memory.

Quandre Diggs was really solid too and his route read on Heaps' second INT was heady. He had pops on people throughout the game and he definitely lets people know that he's there. BYU was incapable of making a play downfield and our corners were a big reason why. Adrian Phillips had one TD hiccup in the red zone that should have been a switch, so I question whether that was all him. Beyond that, he was really good, had two fantastic open field tackles, and his INT reminded me - as with Diggs - that having former offensive high school stars with good hands in the secondary is a boon to playmaking. We'll appreciate than when Mykkele Thompson grabs a job next year.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Vaccaro. Very high level of play and he's easily our best pure cover guy. Several times, BYU tried to use Apo in the slot and Kenny just shut him down with zero help. His flexibility in coverage, value in run support, and ability as a blitzer makes him such an important and somewhat misunderstood glue guy for this defense. We all love the big hits, but Kenny is really skilled.

Brewster got a bit of play in some nickel looks and held up fine. Of the 5 DBs (Phillips, Byndom, Vaccaro, Gideon, Diggs) we play with some frequency, Gideon is currently last in tackles. We need him to show strong against UCLA as the Bruins will tirelessly attack the perimeter and the tackle alley and their 6-8 TE is a load in play action. Bring it, Blake.

Special Teams

A tale of two halves. The game opened with BYU's kicker pinning DJ Monroe perfectly in the deep right corner end zone while we had Return Left on. DJ decided to bring it out anyway and three horizontal seconds later, it was 1st and 10 on our 12. Donald Junior! Go to your room.

Justin Tucker's first few punts were poor, one of them a line drive that would have been 6 if Ryan Broyles were standing back there. Nailed a field goal again and his kickoffs are getting better hang though not ideal depth.

Steve Edmond is ridiculous on kick coverage. He's sprinting down the field at 255, knocking ball carriers silly, and then stripping returners with a bear paw while making the tackle. I cannot wait to see him at LB next year. Stay under 260. Please. You have no idea how much I want to see a prototypical MLB lined up next to Jordan Hicks next year behind a DL that can play 12 guys.

Things got cleaned up in the second half, particularly on a nice little return from Marquise Goodwin (the kicker Marquise, really?) to abet a scoring drive. I love the guy's hands and competitiveness, but Goodwin's track speed doesn't seem to cleanly translate to the football field nearly as well as DJ's does. Goodwin always looks like he's fighting himself when he's running. Anyone else see this? Is mystery to Mongo.

Overall

Our DBs are ahead of where I thought they'd be and I was pleased to see the DTs bring it before we head to Pasadena. UCLA will present some very specific physical and conceptual challenges but the heady play of our corners is starting to make me wonder if tomorrow's bright future is happening today. In some ways, Rice and BYU were great preparations for the Bruins. Rice gave us a lot of spread option run looks to practice against (and we didn't fare as well against them compared to BYU's straightforward running game) and BYU gave us a taste of physical OL play against large humans.

The defense won against BYU's offense in every meaningful phase and though it's clear that the Cougars have limited playmaking ability, it was pretty heartening to see the defense play with that degree of resilience, intelligence, and fire. They won the game and we'll need them to win another in Pasadena while we sort out the offense.

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