Following a 29-24 loss against Oklahoma, let’s take a look at how the Texas defense and special teams graded out:
Following the first 3 offensive drives for Oklahoma, it looked like Texas could possibly be on its way to surrendering 600+ yards of total offense. The defensive line was getting whipped, giving Baker Mayfield lots of time to throw and creating huge holes in the run game. After being down by the score of 20-0, the defensive line responded in a huge way. Charles Omenihu did not have his best game in run support, but had a very good game rushing the passer. Chris Nelson and Poona Ford both had quiet games, but were key clogs on several run stuffs in the second half. Jamari Chisholm, Gerald Wilbon and TaQuon Graham all saw snaps in backup roles and I was pleasantly surprised with the physicality all 3 showed.
One of the biggest disappointments on the defensive side of the ball was the inability to keep Mayfield from getting outside the pocket and extending plays. The defensive line had a difficult time bringing Mayfield to the ground and found themselves over-pursuing far too often. Breckyn Hager also had a rough game, dropping an interception that hit him right in the chest and struggling to get around OU’s All-American left tackle Orlando Brown.
Overall, the defensive line improved as the game wore on and they kept Texas from being completely embarrassed on the defensive side of the ball. Clogging run gaps and containing mobile quarterbacks need to be improved upon.
Aside from Malik Jefferson, the linebacker play was very underwhelming. Even Jefferson had his own struggles in defending the run, but still finished with a team high 11 tackles. I honestly don’t remember Anthony Wheeler standing out at all during the game, but while rewatching the game I saw far too many times where he was blocked out of a play or chose a wrong gap on a run. Naashon Hughes was asked to do a lot in the passing game and performed alright, but it is obvious that Texas lacks a premiere playmaker at the B-Backer position. I am still not entirely sure why Gary Johnson does not play more.
The linebackers’ main downfall was the inability to stop the run, primarily in the first half. There were just far too many times where Oklahoma running backs made it to the second level nearly untouched. If it wasn’t for Jefferson, the unit would have likely received a failing grade.
This was by far the poorest performance the secondary has put together all year. Kris Boyd struggled all game long and it was obvious that Oklahoma came in with a plan to attack him. His eye discipline and situational awareness is something that is going to continue to be attacked by every team left on the schedule. PJ Locke had another subpar game in both run support and pass coverage. Deshon Elliott showed his usual physicality in the run game, but struggled in helping defend the pass. All the secondary struggles could have been swept under the rug had Texas gotten a defensive stop after taking a 24-23 lead in the 4th quarter, but instead Texas left Mark Andrews wide open for a 59 touchdown pass. Brandon Jones and Kris Boyd have both been blamed for the blown assignment, but the fact there are still issues with basic coverage at the halfway point of the season is cause for alarm.
On the positive side of things, John Bonney recorded the first interception of Baker Mayfield all season and played rather well. Holton Hill continues to look very good and I am beginning to wonder if the NFL could be calling his name at the end of the year. Texas has ton of talent in the secondary, but continues to be burned on simple miscommunication and coverage issues that should have been resolved weeks ago.
Texas put together an all around solid special teams performance on Saturday. Josh Rowland connected on his only field goal attempt, a 34 yarder, to help bring his season field goal percentage to 50%. He also did a good job of putting 3 of his 4 kickoffs in the back of the endzone for touchbacks. Michael Dickson was named the Ray Guy Punter of the week after averaging 55 yards per punt, including a booming 69 yarder.
Kyle Porter seems to have given Texas a spark at kick returns. Porter only had one return, but brought it out 41 yards. Reggie Hemphill Mapps had perhaps the only negative special teams play of the day, when he ran backwards after a fielding a punt and lost 10 yards.