Despite massive improvements, defense isn’t satisfied with its play

Drew Lieberman

Over the past couple of years, Texas’ defense had its share of struggles. After a stellar 2011 campaign, the unit was plagued by missed tackles and blown assignments resulting in, statistically, the two worst defensive seasons in program history in 2012 and 2013.

A renewed emphasis on the defensive side of the ball came with the hiring of head coach Charlie Strong. Through five games this year, the group has shown remarkable progress overall from the past couple of seasons. Take, for example, last weekend’s loss to Baylor, in which the unit held the defending conference champs to only 21 points, despite the Bears averaging more than 50 points per contest. Still, the unit believes there is room for improvement.

“We definitely could play better than that,” senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “You know, we gave up 21 points that we didn’t have to give up. Of course, we had a good day. We can make it better, and we are going to continue to strive to make it better each and every week.”

Senior defensive end Cedric Reed agreed with Diggs’ comments.

“There’s a lot of mistakes that we can fix,” Reed said. “We could hold a lot of teams to shutouts if we really hone in our techniques.”

Many watching at home may have thought Texas played well defensively, but senior safety Mykkele Thompson echoed the idea that the unit isn’t consistently playing at its full potential.

“We did some good things in spurts, but all around it wasn’t as good as it seemed on TV,” Thompson said.

Through five games this season, the Texas defense has surrendered 82 points, 73 of which were scored after halftime, with 42 in the third quarter alone. 

“Coach keeps telling us [in] the first half we are playing amazing,” junior cornerback Duke Thomas said. “But second half, we aren’t coming out as strong and not finishing strong. And that’s basically where we at right now — finish strong and win games.”

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said forcing turnovers is crucial for the defense.

“You know, in the games we’ve had success in, we’ve had takeaways,” Bedford said. “Last week, we had no takeaways, therefore we lost the football game. A dominating football team? You’re going to get turnovers. That’s the name of the game. You’re going to shorten the field for your offense. You’re going to score on defense. Whatever it takes. That’s what great defenses must do.”

While the statistics have been better, Bedford said wins are what really matter.

“It’s not important just to play hard and to play fast — but to play smart,” Bedford said. “And if we can continue to play hard and fast and play smarter, I think good things can happen for us.”