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Texas - Nebraska Post-Mortem: Defense

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A quick word about dropped balls.

No, not the ones that dropped on Gilbert running through Nebraska defenders on his way to 51 1st quarter rushing yards in a tough road environment (in which we're 4-0....yawn).

Dropped balls. We dropped two TDs. Nebraska dropped three. You know what drops balls in big games? Bad passing games.

The notion that every ball that isn't caught is bad luck is as wrong minded as thinking every errant pass is too. Catching in a pressure environment is a skill. And when Texas makes you play left-handed, it's not anyone's fault but your own if you throw it like a girl. I throw like a girl with my left hand too. And I throw like a grown woman with my right. The perils of having a QB named Taylor, Megan, or Blanche.

As for the defense, Huckleberry's adjusted statistics tell the tale. We finished the game with a MASH unit and these guys, though they didn't play perfectly, whipped the man in front of them 80% of the time and then asked them if they liked it. Works for me.

Nebraska went 3 and out, turned it over, or went out on downs on 9 of their 11 possessions, had 6 offensive points, and managed 202 yards on 65 plays. When you consider what they'd been doing coming in - albeit against weak competition - that's an extraordinary performance. Coverage busts or not.

Most crucially, we learned what this team can look like when our offense and special teams play mistake-free football. Let's put that saddle on the defense and stop slicing at its hamstrings and see if we can get the mail delivered to Glendale. If not, I will continue to make more poorly constructed Pony Express metaphors until things change.

DL

Kheeston Randall showed that he's the best DT in the league by a wide margin, despite whatever the media continues to spout about Jared Crick. Have Randall line up for the Huskers and the game result flips. That's how important he is. Randall has played six games and right now his record is 6-0 with four KOs and two decisions. I was pleasantly surprised by his too-light-in-the-ass sidekick Alex Okafor who continues to play with great pad level and effort. No, he's not there yet, but I'll take a sack and great backside pursuit while matched against NU's best interior OL all game, thank you. Hats off to Tolley who has improved this kid immensely in a matter of weeks.

Eddie Jones is really most effective when he can attack the passing game. Not a bad game from him at all, just an opinion that's solidified after seeing him against UCLA and NU. I'll never complain about forced fumble though. Eddie will be big for us down the stretch as we face more conventional spread passing teams.

Sam Acho was Mas Macho, he set the edge with total aggression, disrupted like a maniac, appeared not to bust a single assignment, and was all over the field. Like Quan Cosby and a select few others, he represents everything I want in a Longhorn player in terms of competitiveness, unselfishness, character, and big-game play. He drew one key holding call and might have had three others from my viewing. I love me some Acho brothers.

LB

The walking wounded gutted it out down the stretch and gained valuable unit experience that we can build on down the road.

Welcome to major college football, Jordan Hicks. The true freshman had an amazing 11 tackles in roughly one half plus of play and though he showed his youth on several occasions, his speed, instincts, and aggression are big time. We're not going to be able to keep him off of the field next year and he might have just secured 4-3 LB starter snaps in this one.

I'm not sure if Robinson is to blame for Burkhead's wheel route drop, but it was a pretty cool play design by Nebraska nonetheless, effectively running picks with their verticals to seal the inside while paralyzing our LBs with the run threat. Before Robinson was KOed, I thought he played hard and physical and read the NU option beautifully.

Acho was good in his semi-limited action, gutting it out to return down the stretch. His TFL demonstrated the burst that makes him such a unique player. That kind of suddenness can't be taught and OLB is a much better fit for him. If we can shore up DT next year, that may allow us to start Hicks at MLB, Robinson at WLB, Acho SLB. Possibly the best LB corps we've seen since....?

Norton really bangs in there and he and Earnest saved our bacon with their ability to play snaps when the wounded started to pile up on the sideline.

DB

They struggled some in identifying passing concepts (Shawn Watson wasn't kidding when he said he had some wrinkles in the passing game for us), but I really appreciated their physical play in run support.

Really proud of Adrian Phillips who will be a good one. His head had to have been swimming.

Blake Gideon had a mixed bag - he came up and filled the alley with authority, including one nice pop of Martinez, made an outstanding play in pass coverage, but also lost deep man principles on the dropped Nebraska TD post play. I've pointed out since the beginning of the year that we continue to use him as a blitzer or edge force and I'm not sure why. He has zero knack for it. Still, I challenged Blake to be physical in my preview and he was. Tip your hat.

Kenny Vaccaro was outstanding, but did have one notable missed tackle on 220 pound Niles Paul in the open field. It happens. Let's hope he returns quickly. Apparently Kenny scrambled his brain and lost a tooth. Just in time for Halloween.

Christian Scott filled well and I didn't notice his hard hits until I re-watched the game. He is, however, very limited laterally and I don't like him defending verticals over the top at all. He just doesn't get there.

Chykie was Chykie.

Curtis was hurt and played like it. Props to him for gutting through his injury as best he could. We need him badly down the stretch because he's a hell of a pure cover guy.

Aaron Williams put in an All-American game with 8 physical tackles. Physical as hell, outstanding in coverage, set the edge, and forced a fumble. Upon review, his celebration call was utter bullshit, the equivalent of a basketball official allowing the home crowd to intimidate him into a call, possibly a cumulative effect of all of our DBs yapping a little throughout the game and Nebraska's crowd reacting to routine enthusiasm as if Hanson were being gang raped. That written, I hate the attention-seeking, look-at-me posturing. Go watch some Ronnie Lott film.

And you kids get off of my lawn!

Overall

Great game plan. Muschamp asked this team to destroy the run, force them to make us pay with the pass before adjusting, and we never really had to do so. We made it look easy, but combatting Nebraska's complexity in the running game is anything but that. This is one of the best defenses in college football and their gutty play down the stretch when half of the starters spent snaps on the sideline getting worked on by trainers revealed a lot of character and perseverance.

This season is in their hands. They're not going to drop the ball.