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Grading the Defense: UTEP Miners @ Texas Longhorns

Wasn't that fun to watch? By far the most dominant defensive performance of the Mack Brown era,

and one in which you would have to be a miserable prick ransomstoddard to find anything to criticize. Total domination from start to finish. First team? Check. Second team? Check. Third team? Seriously? Check.

Let's look at the stats. The defense's second shutout of the year that won't be recorded as such (thanks offense and punt team). Fifty three total yards. Four interceptions. Four sacks. Eleven TFLs. Two forced fumbles, and UTEP was 1-12 on third downs.

Rewatching the defense last night literally took about 15 minutes. Tackle, incompletion, incompletion, punt. Incompletion, tackle, tackle, punt. There were no 'Who's man was that?' or 'Who should have been there?' Instead it was a lot of 'There were three guys there. Who got there first?'

Texas was able to get pressure without much blitzing, and the passes that UTEP was able to complete were mostly hot reads. They tried at least half a dozen screens to make us pay for the pressure, but we have become a team that you cannot effectively screen. Lamarr Houston in particular is fantastic at reading the slip screen.

Will Muschamp has set a standard of performance. You will play hard, or you will not play at all. Irrespective of the score. If you make a mistake, you make it full speed. And Muschamp never stops teaching. Watch the replay after Malcolm Williams decleats the UTEP punter. Great shot of Muschamp and Nolan Brewster talking on the sidelines, not paying attention at all to the celebration going on around them. Coaching irrespective of score.

I can't pinpoint the exact date, but our linebackers have become linebackers. This shouldn't be new to Texas fans, but it is something that most of us have forgotten. They're reading plays and making tackles for loss. They're covering receivers and making tackles in space. The position has gone from perennial weakness to a team strength.

Was this the game where our secondary finally started hanging on to the balls that hit them in the hands? Maybe. Trevor Vittatoe threw only nine picks in 418 attempts last year. He threw 46 passes against Texas last year without an interception. Texas picked him off four times in only 21 attempts on Saturday. And, yes, it was great to see Blake Gideon make his first career interception.

So who stood out? Everyone, mostly. Take for example UTEP's drive after Texas went up 57-7. They run right, and Earl Thomas makes a tackle for a four yard loss (negated by a Texas penalty). Next play Eddie Jones makes another TFL up the middle. Next play Emmanuel Acho makes yet another TFL on the quarterback to the left. Three consecutive plays, three TFLs, three different players.

But there were two guys who I thought really stood out. Emmanuel Acho is turning into a complete linebacker. The guy can play behind the line, he can tackle in space and he can cover. Five TFLs in the last two weeks. We're watching the maturation process of a young linebacker.

Earl Thomas is a witch. He had two great interceptions and a TFL that was negated by a penalty. His second interception deserves more attention than it has received. The quarterback was pressured so the receivers should have run a different route instead of both going deep. Thomas was more in synch with the quarterback than the receivers were so he actually ran the route that they were supposed to run. It looked like the quarterback made a horrible throw, but Thomas just made a great play.

So now they get a week off to prep for OU heal.