Texas-Kansas State Football Post-Mortem: Defense/Special Teams

One of the great manly efforts in recent Texas defensive history. This defense has elevated their play as the offense has gone into decline and I'm incredibly proud of of what they did on Saturday.

Manny Diaz completely sold out to stop the run, placed young corners on complete islands, and set about methodically wrecking one of the cleverest offenses in FBS football by filling empty space where KSU would end up instead of chasing where KSU was - more on that in the LB section. Diaz's greatest strength (and weakness) is a complete disregard for football orthodoxy and by refusing to honor some basic "rules" we cheat-sheeted our way to dominance and empowered our players to bring out their inner Spartan.

The numbers speak for themselves: 56 plays for 121 yards allowed, 5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, Collin Klein held to 4 yards on 26 carries. KSU's longest play of the game went for 24 yards. The hitting was fierce, the intensity never let up, and they repeatedly gave the offense the ball back to allow a winning TD drive that never came. We allowed one scoring drive all game and that was abetted by some interesting referee calls.

C'est la vie. Hats off to Manny Diaz and his crew. This is currently the best defense in this league.

DL

Completely controlled the LOS. Without the base of their play, we couldn't cheat. Okafor and Jeffcoat strung together their fourth straight game of dominance combining for 15 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and a couple of sacks. What we're asking them to do is now crystal clear to them and they're getting after the passer without jeopardizing the larger scheme while still demonstrating disruptive quickness on the outside run game. If we were able to generate more offense, you'd see them generate even more pressure and sack numbers but KSU made the decision to lay it up once they got the lead. Wise call.

Kheeston Randall also played well, though KSU minimizes the impact of interior DL in their schemes. Incredibly, that was his first sack of the year. Howell and Dorsey are combining into an effective DT and both guys should develop considerably in the offseason. They consistently collapsed the pocket and that played right into our schematic hands with Klein and our LBs.

LB

We need Keenan Robinson injured more often. That was his best game this season. Just totally dialed in on his role and what he needed to do within the scheme as an outside force and general garbage cleaner. Emmanuel Acho had another outstanding game and he's clearly a 1st Team All Big 12 guy. It's inarguable, in fact. The two combined for 24 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks against a scheme whose sole purpose is to confuse second level defenders. Similarly, Jordan Hicks played very well in his snaps and this was the best total effort from our LBs this season.

Diaz is now employing our LBs very differently in terms of pressure. Instead of bringing them early and often over the center and allowing the QB a quick read and dump off, we're bringing them on a delay outside to clean up the expected flush from our DL. Instead of charging where the ball is, we're filling space where we know it will end up. It also makes us much harder to beat in the screen game - your guys aren't committed until the back is. When those things are working in concert, QBs used to making plays outside the pocket by breaking DE containment suddenly find themselves drilled for long losses and having to go through lengthier progressions. And the quick throws that they were thriving of off are now 15 footers instead of lay ups.

Great tinkering of scheme meets player intensity and senior leadership. Props.

DB

I have a different take from many on the play of Carrington Byndom. He drew Chris Harper who is a legit athlete and - at 6-1, 220 - a physical handful in one-on-one coverage. We offered our corners absolutely no safety help for most of the game and the TD pass Klein completed is an almost indefensible play. If a big receiver streaks to the corner of the end zone and you're on him like slut on Kardashian and the QB hits the back shoulder with no safety help underneath, it's 6 every time. Your only choice is interference. No defense for a perfect throw and route. None. The fact is he drew their best WR and shut him down on 90% of their passing snaps. Put another way: Collin Klein went 9 of 17 for 83 yards against a sophomore and freshman corner who were playing alone on a Pacific atoll. They should get as much credit as our front 7 in our success by allowing us to gang up on the run so relentlessly.

Quandre Diggs set the tone on the first play of the game with a double leg takedown slam worthy of Randy Couture and completely dominated KSU's #2 guy. Little Giant is a hard mother. Imagine him two more years in the weight room.

Kenny was a real force and quietly turned in perfect slot coverage - as he has all year. We asked Gideon to outnumber the run and play some deep safety and he delivered within that framework. Adrian Phillips looks like he's finally back around 90%.

I was every bit as proud of our secondary as the front 7 and if you evaluate where the pressure of the defense was placed and how they handled it, I can't imagine a different perspective.

Special Teams

Quandre had some nice punt returns and we came close on a block. Justin Tucker was nails once again and he's putting together an extraordinarily accurate season (14 of 16, 4 of 5 from 40+). Kickoff depth has also improved a bit - maybe his leg is working out some soreness. Obviously, we were completely fucked over by a referee on the punt fumble halo "violation" and it swung the game to KSU. What irritates me most about the call is that the official only threw the flag AFTER the KSU returner fumbled. If our guy was too close, then that flag comes out as the infraction occurs. So the call was completely results-based. That's not how the game is supposed to work. The insult to injury is that it was the wrong call too. Obviously, the replay told the tale and it's pretty clear the official decided he wanted to be a part of an exciting game. Themz the breaks. That's why it's important to have a team good enough disallow the officials from controlling your game outcome. Right?

Don't want to lose a close decision on the cards? Ground and pound your opponent in the 2nd round.

Question: Why are we allowing a multi-billion dollar enterprise be officiated by a part timer insurance salesman or banker?

Overall

Couldn't be more proud of the defense. They did everything asked of them and the absence of turnovers was simply bad luck and KSU understanding that they couldn't beat themselves. Had we opened up a lead, I suspect turnovers would have come in bunches.

A&M represents a very different challenge for us from Missouri and KSU and we'll have to play more honestly in several phases of the game. A&M's offensive tackles are top notch and both of our DEs will face their biggest test of the season. Similarly, A&M's receiving corps, even with Jeff Fuller in Man, Fuck This mode, is a handful. Clearly, if they're without Gray, that's an issue for their running game productivity but I'm fairly certain Sherman and his staff are confident enough about their match-ups on the other side of the ball that they know 24-28 points on the board should be enough for the win.

For our part, it's clear to me that Swope is the key to their passing offense and if you can make Tannehill progress through multiple reads, chances of forcing a turnover rise considerably. If he can just pre-snap read and let it go, Ryan is actually pretty damn good. I hope Diaz makes Swope a special Vaccaro project - at the very least when he's lined up in the slot. Even a degraded Fuller is obviously a major focus in the red zone and on 3rd and 5.

Special teams: we need to go balls out with starters at every spot possible and attempt to manufacture a touchdown. Similarly, if we crack the A&M side of the field, we should send a clear message to our QBs that a made field goal is a desirable outcome and that we'll attempt anything from the 37 yard line in. Anyone who takes a sack needs to be drawn and quartered.

Thoughts?

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