Jeffcoat, Okafor look to continue success

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Junior Jackson Jeffcoat, one of the best defensive ends in the country, scored his first touchdown in his college career against West Virginia

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Jackson Jeffcoat couldn’t believe how loud Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium was when he scored the first touchdown of his career as a Longhorn. It was the loudest he’d ever heard the stadium.

Fellow defensive end Alex Okafor sacked Geno Smtih inside the 5-yard line and forced a fumble. Jeffcoat recovered it in the end zone and tied the score,
21-21, in the second quarter.

“We both got glory on the same play,” Okafor said. “Normally with a sack, one guy gets the sack and the other guy has to help him celebrate. This time we could both celebrate at the same time.

It’s a drill that the two ends work on every week, and it certainly paid off.

Although Jeffcoat scored the touchdown, Okafor was named one of the Big 12 Defensive Players of the Week. He forced Smith to fumble twice and had two sacks. He also blocked a 42-yard field goal.

The two, along with the rest of the defensive line, pressured Smith throughout the game and had four total sacks. Smith was sacked four times, as many as he has been sacked in the four previous games combined.

“The way our defensive line played up front, the way we rushed the passer and things like that, was very exciting to see,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “As a coach, and again you want to talk about improving, we had to find a way to win the game, which was ultimately our failure, but there’s a lot of things to get you excited about coming to work the next day.”

Smith, a dual-threat quarterback, is very different from Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. They’ll need to put the same kind of pressure on him in order to be successful at the
Cotton Bowl Saturday.

Jeffcoat said the defensive line’s performance against West Virginia was encouraging and they will look to continue that pressure against Oklahoma.

Jones spends a lot of time in the pocket, but he struggles when he is pressured out of it. Although he has been working on having quicker feet and a better presence in the pocket, this tough defensive line will look to take advantage of that.

Okafor said it helps having a target like Jones in the backfield.

Jones, who is a senior, will look to finish his career at Oklahoma with a 3-0 record as a starting quarterback against Texas. On the other hand, Okafor, who is also a senior, is going to do his best to finish his career at Texas with a Red River Rivalry win.

“He’s just grasped the scheme so much better as he’s gotten older,” Okafor said about Jones. “The tempo is so much faster. He just makes his reads a lot quicker, and he gets the ball out of his hands a lot quicker. And that’s going to be difficult for us, especially up front, that he’s so fine-tuned with the offense.”

Oklahoma’s pass offense thrived during its rout of Texas Tech, and Jones threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns in the game that ended Oklahoma’s three-game losing streak in Lubbock.

Although Jones has gone through his ups and downs, Texas’ defensive line will need to pressure him much more than last year. The Longhorns do not want to see a repeat of last year’s 55-17 loss.

“They’ve done a good job of protecting him,” Jeffcoat said. “So it’s been hard to get back there. But like we said, our goal is to get pressure on the quarterback, and that’s what we’re going to work on and help out any way we can. We’re going to hustle, make sure we make plays.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 as: Defensive line tallies up sacks, aims to continue high pressure