At heart, Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong will always be a defensive coach.
And high-scoring games hurt his heart, so the grinding, physical 23-9 win over the Kansas State Wildcats in rainy conditions was exactly Strong's type of game.
"Well, you like these more just because -- I just like those low-scoring games because I know this, when we get low-scoring games, the defense is playing good," he said. "When I get those 50 and 48 days, we're not playing very good."
Texas held Oklahoma to 17 points in the Cotton Bowl two weeks ago using a run-heavy offensive game plan and a defense that was able to disguise looks and bring pressure. Against Kansas State, Strong's team further crystallized itself as one that can win in the trenches.
"But it's all about just establishing our identity and just knowing defensively we have to go out and play," Strong said. "You talk about it all the time and you preach about it, but still, I know there's offenses that can move the ball up and down the field but you've just got to find a way to get a stop, and we were able to get those stops today."
If pass protecting is a generally passive enterprise at which at the Horns have often struggled this season, running the football more often and more consistently has given an emerging offensive line led by two freshmen a new sense of joy.
"They love it," said junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. "What offensive lineman wouldn't love running straight at people? I feel like they love it, and they're doing a good job with it."
On the other side of the ball, junior defensive tackle Paul Boyette continues to emerge and junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway continues to make a huge impact on games since his return to health. His assessment of the defensive performance was simple.
"Rate it? It's an 'A'. We won. That's how you rate it," he said.
The 6'3, 315-pounder deserves an "A" for his effort -- Strong said that the Texas defense is "pretty good" when he's on. Instead of having two free offensive linemen running to the linebackers, Ridgeway has been occupying and at times beating double teams to allow the second-level players to run free through gaps.
Holding the point of attack is just one element of his game, however, as he illustarted with his spin-move sack from the outside.
"He's so big and so strong, and he's really quick for his size," Strong said. "He's not one of those guys in the middle where you get a big guy who can't move, who's kind of a slug in there. He's not a slug. He's a guy that can rush the passer, can beat one-on-one blocks, and just -- early he sets it for us because he's able to -- if he controls the line of scrimmage and we see him getting off, then it kind of -- the whole defense looks at him and then they start picking it up and then they start playing."
Combine that with a "run-first, nasty, get-at-your-face" offense and this wasn't just Charlie Strong's type of game, this is getting to be Charlie Strong's type of team.