Texas’ defense entered 2012 with high expectations. Thus far, though, the numbers have been anything but stellar. Despite a strong track record, a well-regarded coordinator and talented returning starters, the Longhorn defense has been rather accommodating to the opposition through the first four games. By some measures it has been worse than West Virginia, a team decried for having no defense.
After finishing in the top 10 the past three seasons, Texas ranks 100th nationally in yards allowed per play, allowing 6.19. That is 20 places below West Virginia at 5.75. Only Baylor (6.57) is worse in the Big 12.
The Longhorns have been especially porous against the pass, ranking 107th nationally allowing 8.3 yards per attempt. For perspective, that is level with former conference-mates Colorado and worse than Baylor. Much of that was Oklahoma State, though Texas was gashed by Wyoming (9.9 yards per attempt) through the air and was not that stout against Ole Miss (7.5). A major reason has been conceding big plays. Through four games, the Longhorns have allowed seven pass plays of 30 yards or longer.
Football Outsiders’ FEI ratings, discounting garbage time, are a bit kinder to Texas, though they are still ranked 79th in the nation. They were 9th last year. The Longhorns have been carried by their offense, which ranks 3rd in offensive efficiency and 14th in yards per play. They have turned the ball over just twice in four games.
Texas’ defense is better than it has played, but their best defense against the Mountaineers may be the offense sustaining drives, limiting West Virginia’s opportunities and disrupting their rhythm. The Longhorns held the ball for more than 35 minutes in three of their four games. The fourth was New Mexico where Texas was scoring too easily in a 45-0 win.
There’s too much talent and intellect in Texas’ defense to be this bad all season. Personnel issues will be worked out. For next week, though, the offense may be the Longhorns’ best defense. Sustain drives to keep West Virginia off the field and disrupt their rhythm. Texas has held the ball for 35 minutes or longer in three of their four games. The fourth was a 45-0 win over New Mexico when they were scoring too quickly to run down the clock.
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