After the season-opening loss to the Maryland Terrapins, the Texas Longhorns players and coaches echoed that their goals were still intact, to compete for the Big 12 Championship. After taking care of business against the Kansas Jayhawks, the Longhorns are doing just that.
However, despite the win, trends that have plagued the Longhorns defensively continued to crop up, while managing to arrest some of the damage done through the air.
Fourth Quarter Differential
The Longhorns once again had to fend off a fourth-quarter comeback to hold onto the win on Friday. The Jayhawks outscored the Longhorns 17-3 in the final frame after not scoring throughout the first three quarters. The fourth quarter differential has actually been problematic for the Longhorns all year, with opponents outscoring Texas in eight of its 12 contests, 122-58, a 64-point differential.
Fortunately for the Longhorns, they’ve managed to outscore opponents by 68 and 73 points in the second and third quarters, respectively. The disparity is likely from the Longhorns ability to limit opponents ground game in those quarters. Texas has given up 641 yards on the ground in two and three, while giving up 997 yards on the ground in the first and fourth quarters.
When playing Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas Tech, the Texas passing defense looked anything but elite, but in the last two games, they have found their stride. They limted Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender to just 159 yards on 35 attempts, and only 4.5 yards per attempt; his lowest of the season. In fact, that 4.5 yards per attempt is the second-lowest average allowed by the Texas defense this year, second to Kansas State by one-tenth of a yard.
Over the last two games, Texas has allowed just 307 yards through the air, a total eclipsed in a single game by five of Texas’ opponents this year, including all three of the aforementioned Cowboys, Mountaineers and Red Raiders.
Tackles for Loss
Against Kansas, the Longhorns brought the ballcarrier down behind the line eight times for 35 yards, and did so without linebacker Gary Johnson, who missed the contest due to a violation of team rules. Even missing one game, Johnson sits No. 4 in the conference and No. 35 in the country with 14 tackles for loss.
Their total against the Jayhawks gives them 85.5 tackles for loss on the season, good enough for No. 24 in the country and second in the conference, a three-tackle improvement over last year. That accomplishment becomes even more noteworthy when you remove the bowl game and look at Texas’s regular season total of 79. With two more games on the schedule, Texas is already 6.5 tackles for loss better than it was a year ago.
Now the Longhorns are tasked with beating a team they have already beaten once this year as they face off with the Oklahoma Sooners. The Texas defense must once again find a way to bottle up Kyler Murray while continuing the recent trend of abusing the Oklahoma passing defense.