Despite missing numerous starters and playing against the SEC’s top offense, Texas allowed only 16 points and forced 3 turnovers. It also didn’t hurt that Texas Bowl MVP Michael Dickson ended his Longhorn career with one of the best performances ever from a college punter. Let’s take a look at how the defense and special teams graded out:
It was a fitting way for the defensive line to finish the season. Poona Ford concluded his Longhorn career by making life miserable for the Missouri offensive line. He’ll be playing on Sundays next year. Breckyn Hager played with usual all-out effort and was rewarded with a fumble recovery. His improvements in defending the run can’t be stated enough. He also needs to work on his dance moves. Malcolm Roach had a quiet night on the stat sheet, but played a very solid game. Along with being the victim on a pretty obvious holding call that was not called on Missouri’s long touchdown to open the second half, Charles Omenihu played excellent and capped off his night with a strip sack fumble on Missouri’s final drive.
Gerald Wilbon, Jamari Chisholm and TaQuon Graham all saw snaps in a reserve role. I noticed Chisholm and Graham get into the backfield several times and force Lock to leave the pocket.
Gary Johnson was asked to play a much bigger role with Malik Jefferson sitting out due to injury, and #33 responded. Johnson finished with a team high 10 tackles and was all over the field. His ability to cover sideline to sideline is perfect in the Big 12, and if Jefferson were to leave for the NFL, there’s no reason not to believe Johnson will he just as productive as #46 was this year.
Anthony Wheeler had maybe the highlight of the game with his 38 yard fumble recovery for a TD, but otherwise played an okay game. He lacks the recognition and anticipation in the run game that you would want from a MLB (Ex: Missouri’s first TD). Todd Orlando will surely spend a lot of time with Wheeler and Jeff McCulloch this offseason trying to get them to the level the defense needs them to be, because Texas will need both to be big contributors next year. In a game full of a positives, it was frustrating to see Wheeler get ejected for targeting when the game outcome was already decided. He’ll miss the first half of the Maryland game.
Considering the circumstances, it was about as good of a game as anyone could have expected from the secondary. Kris Boyd finished the year with another strong game and looks to be heading into 2018 on an upward trajectory. Devante Davis was a reliable tackler and did a great job jumping the route on his interception. You still hold your breath every time he is tested deep down the field, but Davis made several good plays on the ball and looks to hopefully be regaining some confidence.
PJ Locke looked very comfortable at safety. Locke finished with 7 tackles and a forced fumble. Brandon Jones and Antwuan Davis got burned on Missouri’s long passing TD, but otherwise both played solid. Jones is still a liability against the pass, but he can show half the progress made DeShon Elliott between his sophomore and junior season, he will be perfectly fine in 2018. Davis is at his best when he is active around the line of scrimmage, stuffing the run and short screens. Texas will be searching in the off-season for someone to take over at Nickel (Bonney? Josh Thompson?). Jason Hall embraced his role as the 6th DB on the field and finished with 5 tackles.
Michael Dickson put NINE punts inside the 10 yard line and Josh Rowland made a field goal. Nothing else more needs to be said.