Texas’ defense, after getting ripped (and rightfully so) for no-show performances against BYU and Ole Miss, showed its nasty side again Saturday night.
The Longhorns have become the bad boys on the block as far as Big 12 defenses are concerned, and you need not look too hard to find the guys who are primarily responsible — Jackson Jeffcoat, Chris Whaley, Malcom Brown and Cedric Reed.
When the big dogs up front are running the show, everything else will fall into place. Fewer missed tackles. Fewer big plays surrendered. And, most important, wins.
Texas’ front has become the most physical bunch in the Big 12, and now that the Horns are playing the kind of defense we expected to see from them at the beginning of the season, it’s not out of the realm of reality that they can give even high-powered offenses major problems moving forward.
New defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has fully sunk his fingernails into this bunch, and the results are stunning. The old pro is dialing up the perfect calls at the right time, and he’s getting so much push from his front four that he doesn’t have to blitz as much these days.
“It’s been such a luxury,” head coach Mack Brown said. “All four of those guys up front are really good pass rushers and they continue to put pressure on the pass. Now the linebackers are playing better and we’re playing the run better as well.”
For the second straight game, the Horns pushed around the opposition up front. This time the defense forced two turnovers that the offense converted into 14 points.
Even after a three-hour rain delay, the front line was all smiles after the game, and who can blame them? They are the backbone of a team that’s now 4-0 in the Big 12 with Kansas and its 0-4 conference record visiting Saturday.
Since the no-shows against BYU and Ole Miss, when Texas allowed an unimaginable 7.0 yards per carry, the Horns have become a wall against the run, holding their last three opponents — Iowa State, Oklahoma, and TCU — to 3.4 yards. TCU posted only 45 yards on 24 carries, an average of 1.8 yards per tote.
“One of our goals up front is to be a dominant front,” Whaley said, “to push the pocket and put the quarterback under pressure. With Jackson and Ced setting the edge and me and Malcom in the middle, we’re playing real well and we have to keep that up.”
Now holding TCU to only 246 yards and a single touchdown that came on a trick play isn’t akin to going to Waco and shutting down Bryce Petty and Co. but the Horns have sent a message that they will be in ballgames down the stretch because the defensive line has become a fire-snorting, nasty bunch of bulls interested in constant confrontations.
Who would have thought that after that lost Saturday in Provo?
Not me. Not a lot of people.
But here we are, four games into the conference season, and the team’s once laughable goal of winning the Big 12 in the midst of those struggles is, all of a sudden, a realistic one.
“We want to win the Big 12, and that’s what we’ve been working on,” Jeffcoat said. “We’re not happy with just one win. We want to get more and more.”