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Inside the Numbers: Stifling defense continues to be key for Texas

The Longhorns defense shut down the Bears and handicapped their offensive gameplan.

Texas v Baylor Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The No. 3 Texas Longhorns took care of business to kick off their final march through the Big 12 and dominated the Baylor Bears in matchup No. 113, the final one for the foreseeable future.

Following a slow start against Wyoming a week ago, there were questions about whether the offense and quarterback Quinn Ewers were closer to the Alabama performance or the other two games. While there were no questions about the defense after three stellar performances, embracing a consistent level of excellence becomes the challenge week in and week out.

Texas defense: 365 total yards (305 passing, 60 rush, 1.94 ypc)

For the second time this year, the Texas defense was stifling against the run, which largely eliminated the Bears play-action passing scheme and played a big part in why the Bears went without a touchdown in the final meeting.

This is the second time this year that they’ve held an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing, after doing the same to Rice to open the season, a feat they accomplished three times a year ago and just once in 2021. The 1.94 yards per carry average is the second-lowest average with Pete Kwiatkowski at the helm, just behind the aforementioned Rice game. Even if you add back in the sack yardage, Texas held Baylor to less than 100 yards rushing and the fourth-lowest performance under the current regime.

On the subject of bringing the quarterback down, this marked the second time this year that the Longhorns have turned in a five-sack performance after going nearly three seasons without one, dating back to the Joseph Ossai game against Oklahoma State in 2020. After having just three such games under the previous coaching staff, Texas has marked its third in the last two seasons. The Baylor game brings their total to 13 on the year, nearly halfway to last year’s total through just four games.

Jonathon Brooks: 18 attempts, 106 yards (5.9 ypc), two TD

For the second week in a row, redshirt sophomore Jonathon Brooks was a key piece to what the Longhorns managed to do on offense, turning in his second-consecutive 100-yard game and the third in his career.

During the first two games, when splitting carries with CJ Baxter, Brooks averaged 54.5 yards per game on a 4.16 yards per carry clip. Over the last two games, he saw his workload increase by more than six carries per game as the featured back while Baxter recovers from an injury, turning the opportunity into 270 yards at a 6.92-yards-per-carry pace.

Not only is it the volume, but Brooks seems to thrive in the featured back role, turning in six explosive runs over the last two weeks after going without one in the first two contests.

He is averaging 5.89 yards per carry and 94.6 yards per game, with a 379-yard total through the first third of the season. If he hits that average in the remaining eight regular season games, Brooks will turn in the third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season for the Longhorns, marking the first time Texas accomplished that feat since Cedric Benson and Vince Young in 2003-2005.

Quinn Ewers: 18/28 (78.3%), 293 yards, one TD passing, one TD rushing

After a concerning start and relatively quiet performance against Wyoming, Quinn Ewers looked to get back on track against Baylor and did just that against the Bears.

Ewers turned in career highs for both completion percentage and passer rating, while missing on just five passes for the entire game. A week after he started the game 1-of-6 passing and couldn’t find a rhythm with his receivers, Ewers opened the game 6-of-6 passing for 46 yards to keep the offense humming early.

From a play-calling standpoint, it seemed the Longhorns were once again passing to set up the run and keep themselves ahead of the chains, a strategy that paid off. Ewers passed 11 times on first down, completing 10 for 103 yards and a touchdown, keeping the offense on schedule for the day. Perhaps just as impressive, in the rare event Texas was behind the chains and looking at third and long, Ewers converted all three of them, two with his arms and one with his feet – the 29-yard touchdown scramble.

With a win under their belt, the Longhorns return to Austin for one of their toughest remaining matchups on the Big 12 schedule against the undefeated Kansas Jayhawks and star quarterback Jalon Daniels.