Texas-Kansas Post-Mortem: Defense/Special Teams

I'm leading with the Texas defense because while our offense faced a historically bad Kansas defense, the Longhorn defense drew a 30 points/400 yards per game Kansas offense that had success against quality opponents. I thought we'd play well and surrender 14-17 points.

Then this happened:

**

46 yards of total offense
1.3 yards per play
-2 yards rushing.
3 first downs (1 of them by penalty)
15:53 possession for the entire game
Longest "drive" allowed: 28 yards (last series of the game)
Kansas never passed the Texas 40 yard line and left their side of the field only once
Kansas ran the fewest number of plays in the history of the Big 12 (36)
At halftime, KU had 10 total yards
First shutout since 2005

**

In true Mack Brown fashion, everyone gets a trophy! I award this defense the Cleve Bryant Legacy Award For Creepy Audacious Bullying.

Now what does it mean?

Did a defense still learning Diaz's language finally start rattling off declarative sentences using the future perfect tense after enduring the trauma of suddenly being asked to give a speech on Iran's Nuclear Program and James Joyce against Oklahoma St and Oklahoma? Did the bye week serve as a Rosetta Stone for the front 7? Did some guys get healthy, get motivated, or quit thinking too much?

Or maybe KU just tapped out on their season and it doesn't mean much of anything.

I'm looking forward to our last five games to find out the truth.

DL

A totally dominating performance. KU had an experienced OL (including bookend OTs with a combined 60+ starts) and Randall, Okafor, and Jeffcoat completely owned them. Great pressure, constant penetration against the running game without getting out of position, and perfect pursuit and containment on KU's mobile QB. Jeffcoat led the team in tackles along with 3 tfls and a sack, Okafor had 2 tfls, 2 forced fumbles and a sack, and Randall had two big QB hits in addition to complete domination inside from guard to guard. Whaley's sack off of the 3rd down DL bunch formation was a great example of how the big man can contribute to us. Not many 280 pound guys can move like that. The three guys that we need to make an impact did and if they can continue to do so, every game on our schedule is within reach.

LB

We played more base personnel and it certainly showed against the running game without hurting us in the passing game. Diaz is still looking for the right mix of size and speed on the field and against most opponents the answers are easier to come by than against Oklahoma State (an OSU RB busting an untouched 60 yard run against dime coverage is now mandatory Saturday highlight material).

In very brief snaps, this was Keenan Robinson's best performance of the year in all phases. Our linebackers all around did a noticeably better job of standing and waiting to commit instead of sprinting after first influence, but mostly they just cleaned up the five car pile-ups that our DL was creating in the KU OL.

DB

KU helped us with some dropped balls, but we're getting better at breaking on routes earlier to force the QB to hold on to the ball and reroute timing throws. Quandre Diggs was outstanding and led the DBs in tackles (along with 2 tfls) and an interception. KU's WRs lacked explosiveness and we played them accordingly. Carrington Byndom was afforded Top Corner status and the little action he saw was him winning. Vaccaro, Gideon and Scott emerged from the game having barely seen action, through very little fault of their own. Vaccaro continues to be a shutdown safety when we go man coverage. Youngsters like Thompson and Turner got some play and continue to look promising.

Special Teams

Very clean game. We outpaced Kansas 10 yards per kickoff net, Justin Tucker nailed a beautiful 52 yarder and another chip shot, we ran into the kicker instead of roughing, and generally controlled the phases that mattered. Also kind of cool that our leading rusher for the game was also our leading special teams tackler. Hats off, Joe Bergeron.

Overall

I'm not going to belabor the plaudits - eleven guys played good to great and conjuring nits to pick is asinine. We utterly destroyed an average college offense. That's what I want Texas defenses doing. It did look like we figured some things out up front with respect to the running game, but whether that's attributable to assignments clicking, a small sample size, or simply better health and effort post-bye week, I can't say. The proof will be in the next five portions of pudding. First up: Tech's VD Tortilla pudding.

There's also little doubt that this defense benefits massively from playing with a lead. When we can make the game more about our pass defense paired with our schemes instead of every down soundness trying to defend both run and pass equally, we're a lot better off.

Thoughts?

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