Strong: Texas defense must improve for successful season

Michael Shapiro

Texas’ defensive woes dominated the conversation throughout Monday’s media availability with head coach Charlie Strong. He said the team must improve defensively after surrendering 50 points to California in their first loss of the season.

“We had some issues there on defense,” Strong said. “We need to move forward and make sure we give our players a chance to compete and go out there and be successful.”

The burnt orange defense was torched for the second time in three weeks, allowing the Golden Bears offense to seemingly move at will. Senior quarterback Davis Webb looked comfortable in the pocket while throwing for 396 yards and three touchdowns. 

There will be no break for Texas in the coming weeks. The team’s next battle will come against Oklahoma State and its quarterback, Mason Rudolph. 

Rudolph is third in the Big 12 in passing yards through three games and led Oklahoma State to a 45-38 victory over Pittsburgh in week three. The Longhorns stressed the necessity of slowing Rudolph down if they want to win in Stillwater. 

“Our season starts next week,” senior defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. said. “We need to go to Oklahoma State and give them a good game and stop their offense.”

Much of the talk on Monday revolved around Strong’s defensive staff and whether there would be a restructuring following the poor showing in Berkeley. 

While Strong didn’t commit to any changes in his weekly press conference, he did hint at the possibility of taking charge of play-calling duties. He didn’t mention defensive coordinator Vance Bedford by name, but said the Longhorns’ staff must make changes during the bye week. 

“It’s about demanding that things get done,” Strong said. “I’ve been involved in the defense, and I can be more involved … It goes back to accountability; I told the coaches you are a direct reflection of your position.”

Despite the tough loss, the Longhorns look to move on to Big 12 play. Strong said Texas’ goal is to win the conference, and that goal is still very much in play. No Big 12 team is unbeaten after two weeks, and the preseason favorite Oklahoma is 1–2 after getting shellacked by Ohio Stateon Saturday.

But the Longhorns must vastly improve on the defensive side of the ball if they want to claim their first conference title since 2009. Strong is confident he can incorporate those improvements next time Texas takes the field. 

“The defense will be fixed,” Strong said. “Whatever I have to do to fix [the defense], it will happen.”