Texas’ once almighty defense is crumbling. And it’s because they don’t know how to fix their recurring problems.
Against UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor, Texas’ defensive woes were the same — they missed assignments, were unable to stop third down conversions and could not force enough turnovers. After each of those losses, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said, “We’ll just go back to the drawing board.”
Whatever Muschamp’s scheme was this week, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III conquered it. The dual-threat quarterback completed 16 of 24 passes for two touchdowns as he led the best Baylor team head coach Mack Brown has seen in his time at Texas to a 30-22 win. It was Baylor’s first win in Austin since 1991.
“The guy is unbelievable. I don’t know how he can be out of the Heisman talk,” Brown said. “He was the difference. He made play after play after play after play. He makes everyone else around him better.”
At first, Griffin appeared hesitant. On Baylor’s first series, the quarterback was introduced to senior defensive end Sam Acho, who tackled him and caused a turnover.
But Griffin found his groove in the second quarter when he connected with receiver Terrence Williams on a third-and-10 over the middle of the field. Williams escaped Texas safety Blake Gideon, found the open field and ran for a 59-yard touchdown to give Baylor a 10-9 lead.
“We didn’t make plays that we’re used to making around here,” Gideon said. “It’s just a matter of one guy not getting their responsibility one play, and offenses are exploiting it.”
Despite Gideon’s missed tackle, the defense halted Baylor’s running game for about two-and-a-half quarters, holding them to 5 yards on 21 carries. But late in the third, Bears’ tailback Jay Finley broke the seal for a 69-yard touchdown run. Finley, who had 250 rushing yards against Kansas State the previous week, ran over Texas in the third and fourth quarters for 116 yards.
Griffin continued to have success in the fourth quarter as he exposed Texas’ weakness at defending third downs. After the Longhorns held Baylor on the goal line for five plays, Griffin finally sneaked in for a 1-yard touchdown, putting the Bears up 23-19.
Baylor essentially sealed Texas’ fate on their next possession. Griffin started with a 28-yard keeper on a zone read, then found receiver Kendall Wright for 11 yards on third-and-10. Three plays later on third-and-nine, Griffin connected with Wright again, who weaved past safety Christian Scott for a 30-yard strike.
That made the score 30-19 Baylor.
“It’s hard to stop [Griffin]. He’s a dual-threat quarterback,” said junior linebacker Keenan Robinson. “You try to stop his feet, then he hurts you with the pass. You try to stop his pass, then he hurts you with the run. He’s a good, balanced quarterback.”
Texas’ defense ended up holding Baylor to 328 total yards, which was well below the Bears’ season average of 510.8 (the fifth best average in the nation). Acho and Robinson played solid defense, as they combined for 19 tackles and five for a loss of 30 yards. But those two can’t defend 11 players by themselves.
Now, just like every week, it’s back to the drawing board.
“We’ve just got to find a way,” Muschamp said after the game. “All we want to do is go back to work, watch the film and re-evaluate. I look forward to getting back to work.”