The entire defense, part three
Texas fans have to be wondering where to find the light at the end of this tunnel — if that light even exists at all. Head coach Charlie Strong knew the stakes were high heading into his third Red River Showdown last Saturday. The Longhorns had lost two-straight games off the backs of inept defensive performances against California and Oklahoma State, leaving Strong with no option other than to completely take over game-planning and play-calling on defense.
But nothing changed against Oklahoma. The Longhorns gave up 672 yards of offense and struggled to get off the field on third down in a 45-40 loss to the Sooners. Now at 2-3 and having lost three games in a row, the seat is as hot as it can be for Strong. Texas is still struggling defending the run as Oklahoma ran for 282 yards, with 214 of those coming from junior running back Samaje Perine. Junior quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 390 yards and three touchdowns, often with Texas defensive backs busting coverages and getting caught out of position. And of course, the Longhorns are still experiencing tackling issues. There is a little bright spot, though. Texas was able to force four turnovers after only forcing one in the four games prior.
Strong and this defense have to find answers fast or these last seven games will be agonizing. Athletic director Mike Perrin said there is no “magic number” as to how many games Texas has to win for Strong to be safe. But it’s clear there is no magic answer to solving the Longhorns’ defensive woes. Strong simply has to prepare the defense better and the players have to play better. After all, Strong’s future in Austin depends on it.
Sophomore wide receiver John Burt has cooled off considerably since his breakout performance in week one against Notre Dame. Burt hauled in six receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown against the Fighting Irish. But in the four games since, Burt has just 10 catches for 86 yards and no touchdowns. Last Saturday against Oklahoma, Burt dropped a pass and was unable to connect with freshman quarterback Shane Buechele on a long-ball that would have been an easy touchdown.
The Longhorns have also seen recent explosion from the likes of junior receivers Dorian Leonard and Armanti Foreman as well as freshman receiver Devin Duvernay. Burt still remains one of the most dangerous weapons on this Texas offense, but moving forward he will need to start making more plays down the field.