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Texas’ defensive efforts have been a tale of two halves

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The Longhorns defensive performance after halftime in the losses have been dramatically improved. Charlie Strong needs to put that into effect from the opening kickoff.

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

If the Texas Longhorns defense were able to play only the second half of the past two games, we might have a fairly respectable group on the 40 Acres. Unfortunately for Charlie Strong’s team, that isn’t the case and the first half lapses—on numerous defensive fronts—have proven to be damning for a Texas team that’s now dropped two straight.

Let’s considering the overall totals the Longhorns defense sacrificed in Berkeley and in Stillwater. In the two road losses, Texas allowed 72 first half point with replicable quarterly totals, as the ‘Horns defense gave way to 14 first quarter points and 21 second quarter points in each matchup. Oklahoma State’s 16-point first quarter total was aided by a blocked extra point returned for two point, but the defense, specifically, allowed 14 points behind two touchdowns.

Even behind a revamped offense that’s seeing its share of success with first-year play-caller Sterlin Gilbert running the show, the defense allowing five first half touchdowns in each road meeting this season and forcing a true freshman quarterback to play catch-up isn’t a recipe for success.

In terms of yardage, courtesy of missed tackles, blown coverage a being out of position, Texas allowed 677 yards of first half offense—396 against Oklahoma State and 277 against Cal.

Regardless of where Strong may place blame, whether it be himself, his staff, execution from the players, or even the outfits worn to the game, the fact remains that is his defense hasn’t been prepared to play right out of the gates.

But Texas does have the talent and potential to be a good defense—Strong’s halftime adjustments are proof.

In the two losses, Texas’ defense stepped up significantly in the third quarters, allowing just 79 yards of total offense—46 in Stillwater and 33 in Berkeley. Of the six completed third quarter drives, the Longhorns have forced five punts with the only score allowed being a one-yard touchdown after the Shane Buechele interception placed Oklahoma State on the goal line.

Only six total third quarter points allowed is a substantial improvement from 28 in the first quarter and 42 in the second quarter the ‘Horns have seen added thus far.

The halftime adjustments appear to be working, at least initially.

The fourth quarter, on the other hand, has proven to be another problematic portion of the game for the defense, though not quite to the scale of the first half struggles.

In the two losses, Texas gave up 306 total yards in the fourth quarter—113 against Oklahoma State and 196 against Cal. This total isn’t as alarming as it may seem, though, considering Cal added about 40 yards on the ground on what would have resulted in a few kneels if Khalfani Muhammad hadn’t broke free. And against an offense as up-tempo as Cal’s, still chasing receivers at what was nearly 2 a.m. locally for the Texas players likely isn’t the easiest of tasks.

Even considering the jump in fourth quarter yardage, the defense has been done a better job of keeping opponents off the scoreboard, allowing only 21 total points.

In total, the ‘Horns have allowed 292 fewer yards and 45 fewer points in the second half. If that type of performance were evident from the opening kickoff, we may be looking at a Texas team sitting at 4-0 ranked among the top 10, as opposed to 2-2 with talk of numerous coaching changes.