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Defensive/Special Teams Grades: Oklahoma State

Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

It is a real shame that we are not talking today about how the defense held the nation’s number one offense to 13 points and helped Texas pull off the upset. In my opinion, this was the best defensive performance of the season, even better than the performance the unit put together in Los Angeles.

Everything was clicking. The defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs all played a complete game and showed just how dominant they could be as a unit.

Let’s take a look at the grades for the defense and special teams:

Defensive Line

Texas entered the game with a plan of subbing early and often up front on the defensive line. It hurt them a few times when players found themselves out of position and scrambling to get on the field, but overall it helped Texas stay fresh for all 89 plays they would have to face. Poona Ford and Chris Nelson both returned to their run stuffing form. Ford may be the most underrated player on this team and he will be missed next year. He was disruptive in the backfield all game and finished with 2.5 tackles for loss to go along with a forced fumble. Malcolm Roach and Charles Omenihu both played extremely well against the run and had their moments rushing the passer. Breckyn Hager broke out for 2 sacks and showed tremendous effort in rushing the passer. TaQuon Graham saw frequent action at defensive tackle in pass rushing situations and flashed several times.

Texas still has a tendency to allow opponents to check into run plays on 3rd and medium and convert, and we saw that again yesterday. Overall though, it was about as good of a performance as we’ve seen in years. Oklahoma State never really established a running game and the Longhorns had them on their heels all game.

Grade: A-


It is no coincidence that Oklahoma State struggled running the ball when Gary Johnson was in the game. Johnson saw a significant increase in snaps and was stout in the run game, collecting 8 tackles. The linebacker unit is at its best when Johnson and Jefferson are on the field at the same time. Speaking of Jefferson, he was dominant again. The junior lead the team in tackles with 14 and was flying all over the field. He was nowhere near perfect, but it is obvious that the coaches have brought that extra gear out of him and he is playing like a guy who could be drafted this coming year. He has shown an improved ability to diagnose the run and rushes the passer with more physicality than I’ve seen the previous 2 years. Anthony Wheeler saw a decrease in snaps and still has difficulties filling gaps against the run. Naashon Hughes was relatively quiet most of the afternoon.

Grade: A-

Defensive Back

Like the defensive line, this was one of the best performances from the secondary I’ve seen in quite some time. Kris Boyd played under control the entire game and looked very good. Holton Hill is maybe the most reliable tackler on the team and looked excellent in coverage. I am beginning to wonder if the NFL could be calling his name soon. Deshon Elliott and Brandon Jones were largely effective in helping prevent the big play, with the only hiccup coming when Jones fell down on a long pass. The defensive backs also let a Cowboys receiver run right up the seam for a gimme touchdown on a third and long , but were bailed out by a drop. Again, it’s hard to complain with a unit that held Rudolph under 300 yards passing. Excellent job all around by a unit that had to do some self-evaluating after the Oklahoma game.

John Bonney deserves his own paragraph because he stepped up big-time. Bonney played much of the game in a 3rd safety type role, taking away the middle of the field and coming up in run support when necessary. It was an excellent all around game plan by Todd Orlando.

Grade: B+

Special Teams

MVP Michael Dickson had ELEVEN total punts. Dickson averaged 50.9 yards per punt and pinned Oklahoma State inside the 20 yard line 5 times. Joshua Rowland connected on his only field goal, a 22 yarder.

Texas has seemed to have found a spark in the return game the past few weeks. This week it was Kris Boyd who returned 2 kickoffs, taking one out to around the 40 yard line to give Texas excellent field position. The coverage units were once again solid.

I have not seen a replay of the 12 men on the field penalty against Texas, but from the stands it looked like John Bonney was on the field when was not supposed to. It’s simply inexcusable to be having penalties like this in game 7 of the season. If not for that penalty, Texas played a very good game on special teams.

Grade: B

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Jameson McCausland is a senior Sports Management major at the University of Texas. He is originally from Frisco, Texas, where he grew up a Longhorn fan. His two favorite sports are football and baseball, both of which he covers for HornSports. He enjoys spending time with family and friends in his spare time.

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