John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
The Defense plays a half of football.
None of us can't adequately detail the role of team motivation and preparedness going into the game against Kansas, but I think most of us would agree that it was poor. And that rests on the head coach. So given the sloppiness of our performance overall, it is difficult to separate that out from systemic issues, game planning, individual player, and unit performance. So bear that in mind when reading both the Defense and Offense post-game recaps.
Nonetheless, happy to leave Lawrence with the win. And for the first time in weeks, I can write that the defense - specifically the second half defense - played a major role in that happening.
In my Texas-Kansas game preview, my main points were these with respect to our defensive performance:
1. Texas and Kansas wouldn't score points the way casual fans and Las Vegas envisioned (the Over/Under was 60). I advised taking the Under and offered that Manny had his easiest assignment of the year. I rarely give gambling advice, but when I do, it's because there's something glaringly obvious to me that most are missing. In this case, the clock-moving running games of both teams facing pliable defenses, KU's total inability to throw, and the Jayhawk's sneaky effective red zone D. Both teams combined to run only 123 plays.
2. Betting on Texas to cover 23 points on the road is foolish. Needs no comment.
3. Kansas can run the football and may have the worst passing game in major college football. They're Picassoian in their one-dimensionality. Stop the run by playing them straight up and they're done. The second half adjustment in our front 7 where we did just that, and KU's QB totaling 20 yards of output on 16 plays (11 passes, 3 runs, 2 sacks) bore that out.
In the first half, KU ran us out of the stadium, gashed our lack of pre-snap recognition (how many simple formations are our guys going to point at in a Chinese fire drill this season?), exploited our silly stunts and pre-snap games, scored 14 points, amassed 198 yards of offense, and controlled the tempo and clock completely (nearly 19 minutes TOP). They should have scored more, but killed themselves by 1) trying to throw the ball in early drives, leading to two early drive-killing 1st quarter sacks and 2) had a bad QB snap on the Texas goal line.
In the second half, when Texas played basic assignment football, stopped the stunting madness and pre-snap choreography, KU was limited to 75 yards of offense (3.1 yards per play), only five second half possessions, and a field goal.
The first half was just brutal to watch, not only for their actual play, but in how they're being used and what it means to the degradation of their potential - whatever that may be. We have a staff (and a fair amount of the fan base) that portrays them as a sub-FBS unit that would have trouble walking on at Sam Houston St. They sure looked that way in the first half. Yet we can see several instances of legitimate LB play and growth in the second half by Kendall Thompson (and even Steve Edmond) by simple virtue of allowing them to play and rep the actual position of linebacker in a football game. When they aren't told to run blindly to a gap pre-snap, they're actually forced to learn the game. And they can improve.
DeMarco Cobbs can't see the field anymore. Not unless it's 3rd and 12 and he has a single task to execute. He runs under every block (actually our entire D does this - I'm not sure that they're aware that this is bad football unless you're Derrick Johnson) and has no understanding of his role. I doubt he's had a day of meaningful LB coaching. I don't mean assignment communication. I mean coaching at the fundamentals of the position.
Are these guys good? No. Can they be much better than what we've allowed them to be? Yes. Might as well start now before we position switch half of them.
Alex Okafor did some work with 13 tackles, a forced fumble, and 3 QB hits. Ashton Dorsey contributed another 2 tackles for loss and since the West Virginia game he has been our most consistent DT. Is Brandon Moore still ailing? Probably. His strong performance against OU seems a long time ago. Malcom Brown had another four tackles and he's basically forced himself into the rotation. No one else has his very unique blend of base and agility. Desmond Jackson didn't do much.
Reed and Wilson both had their moments - combining for 12 tackles - but there's a reason our DEs had 25 tackles against 56 Kansas rushing plays. Teams are hitting us hard off tackle to exploit our LBs and schematic follies, blocking down on our DTs, and seeing if their TEs, FBs, or simple option responsibilities can contain our DEs. It has been a good bet so far.
Loved the game by Kenny Vaccaro in the 2nd half. I had a different verb to describe his first half of play. Get him up in the box (but not standing on the edge as a blitzer), and let him play football as our third de facto LB.
Diggs had an easy sack off of a slot corner blitz and supported well against the run until a late game whiff (once again on a bad angle - globally speaking, this defense has awful fundamentals) followed by a well-earned PI call. Byndom was solid in coverage and had a nice play snuffing out a QB draw on the KU goal line.
Adrian Phillips continues to hate Pythagoras.
Kansas has abominable special teams and we were content to play them to a push. Special teams are not pennies from Heaven. It's a bunch of physical match-ups and some basic scheming, just like any other unit. If you put the other team's gunner into the water cooler, you block well on a kick return, or you get a great push on a punt block, it's as much about effort and physicality as any other unit on the football field. Their play reflected the play of our entire team. Uninspired.
Alex King punted well again with a 42.6 average, placing 3 balls inside the KU 20 yard line. Nice job.
Where would Texas be on defense if we'd taken the wake up call after Ole Miss and used the next few weeks to grow in a base identity while practicing each week with great tempo and physicality? I'm actually asking. We'd be better, that much I know. But would we be average on defense? Even respectable? Or is it fundamentally corrupted because of how they've been coached since Spring 2012 and the influence of the overall program?
We showed some improvement on the defense in the second half, even considering that that the KU offense is totally one dimensional, quite poor overall, and all of the other disclaimers. They key point is that we actually showed that we can play the run passably for stretches if we'll cut out the goddamn nonsense.
Baby steps. On to Lubbock!