Stat Guy: Triumphant defense will be put to the test

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The Texas’ defense has been very effective this season at holding quarterbacks bellow their averages.
The Texas’ defense has been very effective this season at holding quarterbacks bellow their averages.

Texas’ 43-0 shutout of Kansas on Saturday marked its most impressive defensive outing of the season and, arguably, the past decade. The Longhorns haven’t kept a team off the scoreboard since 2005 against Baylor, the year they won the national championship.

Despite the fact that the Jayhawks are Big 12 cellar dwellers, they came into the game with a respectable offense that was averaging 30 points a game. So it’s really no small feat that Texas held them off the scoreboard.

We could see signs of an improving defense in mid-October when the Longhorns held Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden to 218 yards passing, 158 yards under his average up to that point in the season. While Texas lost the game, the defense proved it could hang with a top-tier passing offense.

This past weekend, first-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s defense held Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb to 46 yards through the air, 155 yards under his average. However, OSU and Kansas are at two different spectrums in the college football world, the Texas secondary held the Jayhawks to 374 percent fewer yards.

“We were seeing the improvement in the last couple weeks,” Diaz said. “We had mainly been playing passing teams, and last week we just hadn’t seen that kind of running yet. It was nice to see our guys being disruptive and making plays on the ball.”

Freshman cornerback Quandre Diggs added to his “Diaper Dandy” resume with his second interception of the season, while the rest of the secondary broke up three passes. Overall it was a performance that places the Texas pass defense at No. 21 in the nation, allowing 192 yards a game.

Let’s not forget about the front seven though. Coming off a week where it allowed 202 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to the Cowboys, the Texas front line more than compensated for its dismal showing. The Jayhawks rushed for -2 yards on 20 carries. To put that in perspective, Kansas had been averaging 188 yards a game, a statistic that would rank it in the top 30 today. Defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat silenced their critics who were saying they weren’t getting to the quarterback enough, registering two of the Longhorns’ three sacks. After holding the Jayhawks to negative yards, the rushing defense improved to No. 18 in the nation, giving up a stingy 104 yards a contest.

Right now, the Texas defense sits at No. 13 in the country (296 yards a game), a fair spot coming off the grueling mid-October stretch the team faced. Texas Tech travels to Austin this Saturday bringing with it the No. 8 total offense in the nation (508 yards per game) and the memory of a huge win against Oklahoma in Norman. The Red Raiders are for real, so it should be a good test for the improving Texas defense.

“They can stretch you vertically down the field, and of course, they’ll have you spread out so they can stretch you horizontally as well,” Diaz said. “It’s quite a challenge.”

Printed on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 as: Defense holding QBs under their average