Texas vs. BYU: Longhorns About to Figure out How Good Defense Really Is

Taylor Gaspar@Taylor_GasparFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2013

Aug 31, 2013; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (44) reacts against the New Mexico State Aggies during the first half at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Texas beat New Mexico State 56-7. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012 Texas Longhorns defense was the worst statistical defense in school history, especially against the run. Texas allowed 192.2 yards per game and finished last season ranked No. 88 nationally in rushing defense.

The good news for Texas is there really isn't anywhere to go but up in 2013. 

Texas' defensive performance against New Mexico State

The Texas defense had a solid season opener against the New Mexico State Aggies, but that really doesn't say what is in the future for the Texas D.

The run defense held the Aggies to just 2.7 yards per carry and 104 rushing yards, 50 of those coming from the quarterback Andrew McDonald. Defensive ends Cedric Reed and Jackson Jeffcoat led the Longhorns with 14 tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack against New Mexico State. 

The Longhorns' pass defense also did well against the Aggies, allowing 7.5 yards per reception and one touchdown. Senior safety Adrian Phillips picked up five tackles and an interception on Texas' 12-yard line, which led to a 55-yard touchdown run from Longhorns quarterback David Ash.

Overall, the Texas defense showed up when it needed to against New Mexico State. It will need to continue the momentum Saturday when the Longhorns take on the BYU Cougars.

BYU's offensive performance against Virginia

Week 2 will not be a cake walk for Texas. The Longhorns head to Provo, Utah Saturday evening. BYU is coming off a Week 1 loss at Virginia, but after watching the game film, Texas really won't know what to expect from the Cougars.

BYU faced a weather delay in Charlottesville, Virginia when lightning was reported in the area at the end of first quarter. Two hours later, the Cougars took the field in monsoon-like conditions, leading to BYU quarterback Taysom Hill completing just 13 of 40 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown in the Cougars' 19-16 loss to Virginia. 

Does this mean the Texas defense should expect to see the same BYU offense from last Saturday?

Not a chance.

"We're not expecting to see [last Saturday's] offense at all," senior safety Adrian Phillips said Monday. "We expect them to be an explosive, physical offense that can run the ball. We expect the works from them."

The Texas offense has spent the majority of 2013 making the shift to an uptempo offense, similar to other schools in the Big 12. One of the biggest perks of running this offense is the Texas defense will face it every day at practice to prepare for the uptempo teams this season.

BYU also runs an uptempo spread offense, meaning it's time to put up or shut up for the Texas defense against an uptempo attack.

Is the defense prepared to face an uptempo offense on the road at BYU?

"We have no choice but to be prepared," Adrian Phillips said. "We have been working against this offense for months; it's all we have been doing in the offseason."

BYU ran the ball 53 times against Virginia last Saturday, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. With the Texas run defense coming off of the worst statistical run defense season in school history, the Longhorns are excited to see how the defense responds to a powerful run game.

"BYU is going to make plays," Adrian Phillips said. "They're going to have some good runs, and it's our job to stop them. It's going to be tough, but we're ready for the challenge."

"It's going to be fun if they come out and run the ball," junior cornerback Quandre Diggs said Monday. "That's something [critics] have wanted to see and it's something that we want to do to show we are a different team than we were last year."

Containing the Cougars

At the Longhorns' press conference Monday, Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said, "After the first quarter, the whole game was played on a Slip-N-Slide." Still, BYU put up 362 yards of total offense on the "Slip-N-Slide" field.

Did I mention the monsoon-like weather conditions? Well, they didn't appear to affect BYU running back Jamaal Williams, who rushed for 144 yards. 

Last season, Williams led the Cougars with 775 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. The Longhorns' run defense will be put to the test Saturday night with Williams leading the charge.

After watching the Cougars game Saturday, it's difficult to truly analyze all of the talent the Cougars have this season. Taysom Hill is a dual-threat quarterback and was responsible for both BYU touchdowns against Virginia. The stat sheet against Virginia does not show Hill's arm talent, but remember, completions do not come easily in wet-weather conditions.

Texas will need to be prepared for Hill to both run and throw the ball.

What if...?

So what if the BYU offense and the combination of Williams and Hill are too much for the Texas defense to handle?

Then Longhorn fans better hope the Texas offense can outperform BYU's defense, which ranked No. 2 in rush defense and No. 3 in both scoring and total defense in 2012. 

If the Longhorns don't stop the Cougars, they better move on fast—Texas hosts Ole Miss the following weekend.

Week 1 stats do not accurately show what to expect of the BYU Cougars, and I think this game will not be an easy win for the Longhorns.

Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.


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