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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Updated: December 5, 10:00 AM ET
Texas defense lacks consistency

By Carter Strickland
HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- In seven plays, the accolades that had piled up for Texas' defense came to a crashing halt.

That's how long it took for a good offense to expose what was either an overrated or unmotivated defense by putting up two quick-strike touchdowns.

Since the latter isn't all that plausible considering this was the last regular season game for several seniors and it was against a team that embarrassed Texas year ago, the only logical conclusion to draw is that the Texas defense is not as good as suspected.

Here are a few of the new numbers that lead to that conclusion: 511 yards surrendered, touchdown passes of 59 and 39 yards, four scoring drives of 59 yards or more with none of them lasting more than nine plays and an average of 8.5 yards per play for Baylor.
Mack Brown, Manny Diaz, Robert Griffin III
Mack Brown and Manny Diaz have struggled defending againt top-flight quarterbacks.
"I don't care if the offense has trouble or not, defense has got to stop them," said senior linebacker Keenan Robinson. "We didn't do that."

In fact, the defense really failed to throttle the top three offenses in the Big 12. Oklahoma put up 55 points and Landry Jones threw for 367 yards against Texas. Oklahoma State's offense averaged 6.2 yards per play and rushed for 202 yards. Then there was Baylor.

"The quarterback was able to pick us a part in a few situations," Robinson said of Baylor and its quarterback Robert Griffin III.

All of which leads us to what should be written as the final analysis for this defense.

The unit was, at times, dominant. The Missouri and Texas Tech games were a testament to that. Both were top 20 offenses. Both struggled to score.

But the defense most often flexed its muscle against the weaker teams. Kansas State was 92nd in overall offense. Kansas was 106. UCLA was 61. Rice was 91. Iowa State was 55.

As for Texas A&M, the Aggies were one of the better offenses in the country. Texas' defense allowed them to score on their first and, much more importantly, last drive. It is difficult to indict the defense over that performance considering the interception return for a touchdown, the environment, the five days rest between games, the thwarted two-point conversion and the field position the defense faced most of the game.

Given all that, what Texas is left with is a defense that can be considered, at best, inconsistent. The reasons for that inconsistency cannot be pinned on youth or injuries either.

Sure Jackson Jeffcoat was banged up and could only play in third down packages against Baylor. But that is a situation that has to be managed.

As for youth, the two players who had the most question marks, cornerbacks Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom, might have been the top two performers on the defense. If not, at the very least, they were the two biggest surprises.

The reason Texas struggled more against the diverse and dynamic passing attacks was because defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has never faced those offenses with NFL quarterbacks.

In the SEC last year at Mississippi State, he faced two NFL quarterbacks, Auburn's Cam Newton and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett. Newton, who was only in his second game out of Blinn Junior College, had 206 combined rushing and passing yards. Mallett, a backup with the Patriots now, had three touchdowns, one of which was an 89-yarder. Diaz never faced a current NFL quarterback in his four years at Middle Tennessee.

Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, Jones and Griffin are all veterans of the Big 12 and all are expected to be next-level players.

So while there was a learning curve for the players when it comes to Diaz's schemes, there was also a learning curve for Diaz. It will take the offseason to get both straightened out.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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