Texas has to limit big plays heading into Big 12 play

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Cornerback Quandre Diggs, along with the rest of the defense, has struggled with giving up big plays this season.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

What was expected to be a dominant defense was anything but in Texas’ win over Ole Miss two weekends ago.

The Longhorns gave up 31 points and 399 yards of offense (not including a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown), and they made plenty of mistakes during their recent bye week. Now a trip to Stillwater to face an Oklahoma State team that leads the nation in scoring (62.3 points per game) and total offense (686.7 yards per game) looms.

West Virginia, Oklahoma and Baylor, who have averaged a collective 45.3 points per game this season, are up next.

“This is it,” cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “This is where we’ll finally find out what our team is made of. After these next four games, we’ll sit back and evaluate ourselves and see where we’re at. But we’re just taking it one game at a time: Oklahoma State, West Virginia, OU, Baylor.”

Texas has surrendered 34 plays of at least 10 yards this year, nine more than they had allowed through three games last season. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said that his unit missed 11 tackles in the Longhorns’ 66-31 victory in Oxford two Saturdays ago, allowing the Rebels an extra 120 yards, including two that accounted for 97 yards.

“They’re correctable issues,” head coach Mack Brown said of his defense’s miscues. “They’re angles on tackles. They’re getting heads down. We had a really good week of tackling last week. We took out every missed tackle and addressed it ... We’ve always had tackling drills, but there was more emphasis on it last week. We spent more time and more effort and really worked at making sure they understand that we do think it’s an issue.”

It hasn’t been all bad. Texas has forced seven turnovers and scored 42 points off of those takeaways. The Longhorns have committed just one turnover, losing a bad snap in their season opener against Wyoming. The Cowboys turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession, and Texas found the end zone and the next drive. Still, the defense’s performance in that 37-17 win left something to be desired.

“Even after the first game, I was in a bad mood,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “When you don’t play as great as you want to play, you get upset and down on yourself, because I know you guys have standards about how we play, but whatever you guys think, just know that we think twice as highly of ourselves.”

The Longhorns have it in them to improve. They led the Big 12 in rushing and passing defense last season. But with several high-powered offenses on the horizon, Texas has to play better defensively beginning this weekend than it did two weekends ago.

“You’ve got to make big plays, but you can’t give them up,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “I didn’t really notice it was as bad as it was until I watched some film. At least you can correct those things. Some things you can’t correct, like being a certain athlete. But we have the athletes.”

Printed on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 as: Defense must step up against high-scorers