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No. 7 Texas vs. Texas Tech: Evaluating the four defensive areas of emphasis for the Longhorns

In a game where the Longhorns dominated, how well did the defense actually perform in the four key areas of emphasis? Let’s find out.

Texas Tech v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

In the final game of the regular season, the No. 7 Texas Longhorns handily defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders by a score of 57-7 on Friday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The game featured solid performances from all three aspects of the Texas team — offense, defense, and special teams. The Texas defense was particularly strong.

Texas Tech v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Texas Tech came into the game averaging over 400 yards per game and had just 198 on the day, their season low. The Red Raiders totaled 88 passing yards and averaged just 2.4 yards per attempt to get there. Furthermore, their lone score came on a short field after a 55-yard kickoff return and was aided by a penalty in the end zone on third down.

Texas forced nine total punts and six three and outs, a remarkable number. But when evaluated under the microscope, did the Longhorn defense perform in the four areas of emphasis — third downs, fourth downs, sacks, and turnovers? Let’s find out.

Third downs

Grade: A+

Texas Tech v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Texas held Texas Tech to 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) on third downs. This is stout. The defense also did produced many of those stops on the first set of downs on the possession as the Red Raiders didn’t move the sticks on six different drives throughout the game.

Texas was able to be successful on third down once again because of their performance on previous downs. The Red Raiders routinely faced down and distances that allowed Texas to pin their ears back and prepare for passes.

Season outlook: Texas established itself as one of the premier defenses on third down in the country. A year after finishing with a conversion rate of 41.3 percent, Texas finished the regular season first nationally with a rate of 26.3 percent.

Fourth downs

Grade: A

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Texas Tech at Texas Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Texas held Texas Tech on their lone fourth-down attempt in the game. With the score 23-7 in favor of the Longhorns, the Red Raiders had the ball at their own 45-yard line with less than a minute left in the first half. Facing 4th and 2, the Red Raiders attempted to dump the ball off to a running back and gain the necessary yards. Freshman linebacker Anthony Hill Jr. had other ideas. Hill Jr. came from his position in the center of the field to meet the back at the line of scrimmage and force the turnover on downs.

Season outlook: Texas improved on fourth downs. Last year, the Longhorn defense was tied for 86th nationally with a rate of 57.1 percent. This year, the defense finished the regular season tied for 30th with a conversion percentage of 44.0.


Grade: B

Texas Tech v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

If the worst part of a defense’s performance is that they only recoded two sacks, it was probably a successful day for the unit. This was the case against Texas Tech. The Longhorns brought down the Red Raiders signal caller twice, a solid performance in and of itself.

On their third defensive possession of the game, the Longhorns had to stop the Red Raiders on 3rd and 7 to get off the field. Texas opted to bring both linebackers and it worked as senior linebacker Jett Bush was able to get a one-on-one matchup with the Tech left tackle. Bush used a smooth spin move to evade the block and get home for a nine-yard sack to force a punt.

Later in the first half, Texas had to defend a 3rd and 14. Once again, Texas brought pressure. Utilizing a blitz allowed Hill Jr. to come through the line untouched and he sacked the quarterback for an 11-yard loss. The speed and agility of the true freshman were on full display during the third-down stop.

For Bush, who was playing in his final game at DKR, the sack was his second of the season. For Hill Jr., it pushed his season total up to four.

Season outlook: The Horns have 30 sacks on the year after recording 27 last season. This year’s unit ranks 30th nationally, an improvement from the previous year.


Grade: A+

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman Mikala Compton/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Texas forced three turnovers, tying their season high in a game. The defense intercepted three passes, which set a new season high. Each play interception was quite impressive.

For the first interception, freshman corner Malik Muhammad covered the initial route near the first-down marker before the receiver went deep along the sideline. Muhammad backpedaled and put himself in position before coming up with the ball. It was the freshman’s first interception of his career.

The second interception of the night was caught by sophomore corner Terrance Brooks. Brooks was on an island and ran the 10-yard curl better than the Tech wide receiver. When the ball was delivered, he beat the receiver to it and secured the pick, his third of the season.

The final interception was a miraculous catch by Bush. On a dump off to the running back, the ball bounced off the foot of the Tech player and into the air. Bush tipped it to himself and returned it 43 yards for the touchdown. It was the fifth-year senior’s first interception of his career.

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman Sara Diggins/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Creating turnovers was a key part of the Texas victory. Forcing three in one game is a recipe for victory.

Season outlook: The defense has forced 20 takeaways this year, six more than last year. After finishing 104th nationally a year ago, the team is tied for 17thj in the country.

Texas once again had an extremely strong performance. The defense excelled in each of the four metrics and shut down the Red Raider offense. With the regular season complete, the improvement from last year in the four areas of emphasis is crystal clear — this unit is performing at a high level in each of the four areas.