Saturday, November 5, 2011
Defensive line gets after Red Raiders
By William Wilkerson HornsNation
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Tech had clearly had enough.
All week long, it heard about its embarrassing 41-7 loss to Iowa State, and its opening drive against the Longhorns on Saturday presented the perfect platform to make a statement.
The Red Raiders looked like they were well on their way to doing just that as they moved methodically into Texas' red zone, a fresh set of downs and two yards away from taking a 7-0 lead.
"I look up and there are 7:56 left in the first quarter and we haven't touched the ball," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "And I thought, 'Here we go.' "
"You can tell we came to play," Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said of that opening drive.
Three self-inflicted penalties later, and Tech trotted off the field with a field goal instead.
Texas' defensive line was key in slowing down Tech.
It was a moral victory for a Longhorns defense that had yet to find its footing in the game.
They settled in comfortably after that.
The pressure that Texas wasn't quite getting on Tech quarterback Seth Doege on that possession turned into four first-half sacks, which is half the number the Red Raiders had given up in five Big 12 games coming in.
"I'm proud of our red zone defense for making them kick field goals," Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "Really, on that first drive, when it seemed like they had 30 snaps inside our 20 yard line, I thought it was telling toward the game."
One of the key contributors to Texas' pressure was sophomore defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, who is starting to emerge as the player most thought he would when he was rated as the No. 2 overall prospect out of Plano (Texas) West in 2010. He finished with seven tackles (four solo), 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. In his last four games, he has posted eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
"Jackson missed six or seven games last year with a high ankle sprain so he really didn't have chance to have a good year," Brown said. "I think he is just now learning he can get there."
Texas' other end, junior Alex Okafor, wasn't bad either. He finished with six tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hurries. He now leads the team with five sacks and has tallied a sack in three consecutive games and in four of the last five.
Jeffcoat and Okafor weren't the only two defensive linemen that made an impact. Sophomore defensive tackle Ashton Dorsey had one of the better games of his career and made life miserable for Tech center Justin Keown. Dorsey finished with three tackles, a tackle-for-loss and three quarterback hurries. He got his hand on a Doege pass attempt in the first half that led to a Tech punt.
"We all individually can get better," Diaz said. "That has been this team's sole focus since the beginning of the season. We will look at what we did today, and there are things that we can get better at next week."
Against the Red Raiders, the Longhorns got better at pressuring the quarterback without blitzing.
"When we can get to the quarterback without blitzing, then that shows that they are doing a great job," Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson said. "We didn't blitz as much. We sat back there in coverage and let them do what they earned a scholarship for in high school, and they earned it today."
That pressure allowed the Longhorns to drop more players in coverage to try and slow Tech's passing attack. Those sacks, Diaz said, were in large part due to Doege not having anywhere to go with the ball.
"I thought the big key was the coverage," Diaz said. "What we are doing is making the quarterback hold the ball a second longer, and those counts make a difference between a pressure and a sack."
William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNationFollow HornsNation's coverage on Twitter: @ESPNHornsNation