Texas Longhorns-Baylor Bears Post-Mortem: Defense/Special Teams

Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE

Breaking down another defensive breakdown.

I'm happy for the win, but it was the work of our offense against a bad Baylor defense. Our defense is still making history of the worst kind.

But Manny Diaz is fired up! Because we're getting better. And he's identified things we can fix.

I was really, really proud of the way the guys fought tonight. I saw some young guys that looked like they started to grow up. We played faster. We tackled better. We did some of the things that we had not been doing in the last few games. There’s some things that we can fix, but there was a lot of things that were encouraging. We asked them to fight tonight, and I think they did.


Of course, there is the nagging problem that the Texas defense surrendered 50 points - the largest point total allowed in a Longhorn victory in Texas history. But we won. So that means the defense made the important plays to win! The plays that allowed 607 yards at 7.1 yards per play (255 yards rushing and 352 passing) were the unimportant ones.

Although Baylor did get a short field off of an errant Kyle Ashby punt snap (immediately followed by a Nick Florence end zone stroll through Mykkele Thomspon after Wilson and Edmond played the same gap), that 255 yards rushing was their season high. The Texas defense surrendered the season rushing high in a Bear schedule that includes the defenses of Sam Houston State, SMU, Louisiana Monroe, and West Virginia. Try to remember that as Mack Brownand Manny Diaz tout our improved play against the run.

Glasco Martin was averaging 3.7 yards per carry coming into this game and we allowed him to go for 85 yards on 15 carries. Lache Seastrunk went for 8 yards per carry. Nick Florence ran for 69 yards and 2 TDs on simple zone reads and even Baylor Bear fan whipping boy Jared Salubi averaged over 5.0 yards per carry.

The Diaz run defense elixir - it's good for what ails your O.

Listening to color announcer former Buckeye legend Chris Spielman openly mock our defensive concepts and fundamentals for three plus hours was painful, but I appreciated his candor. I hope he knows he just made Mack's "Not a Friend" list.

There were a few bright spots on defense, though.

Josh Turner

Turner played quite a bit at safety, and he turned in a promising performance with six tackles, 1 interception, and a pass break up. Beyond the statistics, he was one of the few Longhorns defenders who was playing with some level of instinct and aggression, perhaps in no small part because he was given a pretty simplified assignment: keep everything in front of him and play football. Funny how that works.

Alex Okafor

Big Oak added 1.5 sacks to his season total of 7.5 and he also contributed 8 tackles and 3 tackles for loss. He was the sole DL bright spot against a Baylor OL that was stronger inside than out. He's basically Tony Brackens on a Mackovic defense. Not that Mackovic ever fielded a defense this poor.

3 Field Goals, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Interception

The Texas defense had some stops. Sort of. People are already going overboard on these "stops", but they were key. Let's put them into context.

First, let's be clear: Baylor did whatever it wanted on offense for four quarters (they scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions of the game and had a 94 yard touchdown drive on their last) but the Texas defense/Baylor offense managed to secure/blunder it's way into five "stops" Big 12 style.

The two turnovers: The interception was a bad read by Nick Florence that Josh Turner had the presence of mind to grab. We'll take it. Later, Steve Edmond put his helmet on the ball making a tackle on Glasco Martin and we have a legit forced fumble and recovery (Kenny Vaccaro forced another fumble later on Florence, but it was recovered in the end zone for a Baylor touchdown).

Texas also held "held" Baylor to field goals after drives of 63, 58, and 53 yards.

The first FG was as time expired in the first half after Baylor moved 63 yards in 60 seconds, like a Jeff Madden wind sprint. Can't really credit us with much there. Time ran out.

The second FG happened when Cameron Kaufhold got hit with a holding penalty. Credit to the Longhorn defender for making the official throw the laundry. Legit stop.

The third FG happened because Baylor chose to kick a 44 yard field goal on 4th and 1 while trailing 50-40 after Chris Whaley batted down a 3rd and 1 pass. Art Briles stopped Baylor with an idiotic decision. So, I basically credit the Texas D with 2 of the 5 stops.

Some quick positional thoughts:

DB

We spent more time with two deep safeties than in any game this season, particularly in the 2nd half (usually Turner and Thompson). The results were mixed, as we continue to have difficulty with very basic alignment (it's the 7th game of the year - is motion out of the backfield to trips really that mind-blowing to you still?) and our cornerbacks seemed weirdly unaware of down, distance, and basic situational football, often not matching their coverage to the blitz and/or lining up with little awareness of where their help is coming from. Akina needs to take some heat for that.

Quandre Diggs drew the most gifted receiver in the league in Terrance Williams and #2 ate him up to the tune of 10 catches for 183 yards and a 1 touchdown, a 80 yard score on a sweet hesitation vertical. Lanear Sampson hurt us quite a bit in the screen and crossing route game with his Anquan Boldin impersonation. The rest of the Bear passing attack was held down to the short game, but Williams and Sampson were all they needed to get 250+ of their 352 yards passing.

LB

Edmond made a play on the forced fumble. We also saw Peter Jinkens get meaningful snaps along with DeMarco Cobbs, Kendall Thompson, and Dalton Santos. We're basically playing everyone looking for a spark that can overcome coaching and scheme, and I see very little improvement with respect to basic run fits on normal running downs, despite Diaz suggesting otherwise.

DL

I have a lot of respect for the interior OL of Baylor. They held down some pretty good defensive tackles and seriously limited Whaley, Dorsey, Moore, and Jackson's impact on the game. Malcom Brown looked like he got around 30 snaps and played well with 3 tackles.

Okafor played well and Cedric Reed had some moments with a sack and 4 tackles. Reggie Wilson had one more tackle than a dead man. Shiro Davis had his shirt pulled and he certainly looks the part, but is pretty much a lost freshman at this stage. We really need Reggie Wilson to come on.

Special Teams

Kyle Ashby killed us with an errant snap that gave Baylor 1st and goal, but it happens. Alex King gave us 42 yards per net punt which we'll take any day of the week, Nick Rose kicked six touchbacks, and DJ Monroe had a nifty 70 yard kickoff return that led to a touchdown. Though Baylor's field goal kicker was nails and our deep snapper gifted them a score, I give us a net tie in the kicking game and that, along with our ability to get two turnovers, and Art Briles chickening out on 4th and 1 when it was 50-40, was probably the difference in the football game.

Overall

The Diaz defense is now surrendering 35 points per game, 472 yards per game, at 6.6 yards per pop, ranking Texas cleanly in the bottom 10% of FBS. Behind UNLV, Army, Rice (their combined record: 4 wins, 19 losses), but just edging 1-6 Tulane. However, if you adjust for opponent quality, we're no worse than the bottom 20%. So, positive news, there.

This is a horribly coached unit. And it's worth noting that the West Virginia offense that dismembered us has been completely destroyed for two weeks running by Texas Tech and Kansas State with simple game planning and sound tackling. Don't be surprised when the unstoppable Baylor attack is held to a few disappointing point outputs over the back half of the season.

This Texas defense hasn't improved since Ole Miss and I see little reason to believe that they will. Enjoy the shootouts. Or, if you're the optimistic sort, we should have this defense squared away in time for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe against Northwestern.


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