Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford had been waiting since 1978 to finally defeat Notre Dame, who then knocked off an undefeated Longhorns team Bedford played for in the Cotton Bowl, and though he finally got the win, Bedford sees much room for improvement going forward.
Following Texas’ Sunday night victory over a Fighting Irish team that ranked No. 10, in which his defense allowed 47 points, 444 yards and missed 14 tackles, Bedford graded his defense’s performance as a C, and adding the plus for the win. Yeah, the win was nice, but again, the defense certainly has room for growth and the third quarter, in which Texas gave up 17 points to allow the Irish to claw back into the game. Notre Dame’s use of screens had much to do with that.
“Any time you pressure a team — and we are going to continue to pressure — you’re going to see screens,” Bedford said. “One screen was on 3rd and 9, and we were only rushing three. They went empty and then motioned a guy in the backfield. We told our guys that anytime (they do that), then something’s up. Last year, it was a run. This game, it was a screen. Malik (Jefferson) saw it, but he had a block on him. Some of our younger guys didn’t see it.
"In the third quarter, we stunk. We didn't do a good job. But you go into the fourth quarter; guys did a good job. After a big play in the first quarter, they didn't score again until late in the second quarter. We've got to be consistent."
What Bedford hopes to see on a much more consistent basis is the defensive effort Texas displayed in the fourth quarter, in which a series of key stops at critical points of the game ultimately proved to be a difference-maker.
“The key that we looked at is this: in the fourth quarter, we had three series of snaps worth 19 yards and two of them went three-and-outs and we got the ball back for the offense,” Bedford said.
What was the difference? To Bedford, it was the attitude that was so often raved about throughout the spring, summer and fall camp leading up to the Notre Dame game.
“Our first two years here, the attitude would've been such that when we got down, I don't think we could have come back,” Bedford said. “The attitude right now is that the entire team believes in each other and like each other and care for each other.”
Now, as Bedford emphasized numerous times throughout his media availability, Texas’ attitude and belief needs to shift towards stopping a legitimate threat in UTEP’s backfield in senior running back Aaron Jones.
“That’s all I can think about,” Bedford said. “I woke up last night at three o’clock (thinking about) this guy who rushed for 249 yards. I don’t care who you’re going against, he rushed for 249 yards. He’s 215 pounds, he’s wide, he’s quick, he runs downhill. That’s all I could think about when I woke up at three o’clock in the morning: How we going to slow this cat down?”
Fortunately for Bedford, he may have caught as break with the news that an MCL tear will keep quarterback Zach Greenlee out of the game, which should virtually limit UTEP’s offense ability against Texas’ defense to running the game and not much else. If that proves to be the case, expect plenty of bodies around the line of scrimmage to stop a gifted runner that’s already causing Bedford to lose sleep.
Also worth noting, senior safety Dylan Haines is now day-to-day after suffering a concussion against Notre Dame. Considering Texas should be able to have its way with UTEP, it’s possible Haines sits out entirely for precautionary reasons.