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2004 Season Review: Part 2 of 3

Part One of the 2004 season review focused on the offense and Vince Young?s development into an unstoppable force. Today in Part Two we?ll focus our attention on the 2004 defense, led by Greg Robinson for the first, and only, time.

Important numbers improved under Robinson?s tutelage. Consider the following statistics:

[The key for the table below is as follows: TOs (Turnovers forced), Rush YPG (Total rushing yards allowed per game), Rush YPA (Rushing yards per attempt), TOP (Opponents time of possession per game), PA (Points allowed per game), 3rd Down % (Percentage of opponent 3rd downs converted into first downs).]

Texas Defense 2003-2004
Year Sacks TOs Rush YPG Rush YPA TOP 3rd Down % PA
2003 42 29 152.5 3.7 30:00 38.3% 21.5
2004 22 23 107 3.2 27:52 28% 17.9

While the Texas defense got to the quarterback fewer times and created fewer turnovers, the numbers improved across the board in the aforementioned categories. Under Robinson?s direction, Texas focused more on stopping the run, taking fewer risks on defense, and getting the opponents off the field on third down. For the most part, it was a sound strategy that worked well enough. The only game the rush defense wasn?t particularly stout was against Oklahoma and Adrian Peterson. The freshman?s explosive afternoon cost Texas, of course, but for the season, the unit improved under Robinson.

The pass defense wasn?t quite as stingy in 2004, but part of that was by design. By keying on stopping the run with a base defense and leaving the corners in man-to-man, the Horns were occasionally prone to a good passing attack. Still, the improvement from the 2003 season under Carl Reese was important.

Perhaps most important of all, though, was that the 2004 unit was going to return in tact for 2005, with the lone exception of Derrick Johnson. While Johnson was the anchor of the 2004 unit, the rest of the defensive players from 2004 improved dramatically in preparation for the title run of 2005.

2004 truly was a tune-up to the championship. By the end of the year, the woefully overrated Phillip Geigger was losing playing time to Tarrell Brown and Aaron Ross. By ?05, Brown and Ross, alongside Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff, were groomed for a title-winning season.

Greg Robinson?s defense wasn?t perfect ? a times a bit too reactive for my taste ? but it was so much better than the latter part of Carl Reese?s tenure, when Texas defenders were consistently out of position, over-pursuing, or flailing to create turnovers.

Best of all, Robinson?s success led to his departure as head coach of Syracuse in 2005. That paved the way for the arrival of a one Gene Chizik, who you may have noticed hasn?t lost a game in a while. The 2005 review is going to be tremendously enjoyable.

Up Next: The Part Three review of 2004, and a tribute to the Rose Bowl win over Michigan.