Into the ‘hornet’s nest: Texas starts off the latter half of their season against TCU

Daniela Perez

The Longhorns will be traveling back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to face off against the TCU Horned Frogs this Saturday. With one loss in conference play to Oklahoma and a close win against Kansas, the Longhorns have entered do-or-die territory; the latter half of their schedule will determine if they will play in the Big 12 Championship.

TCU is coming off two consecutive losses, but the Horned Frogs still have defensive and offensive threats that are causes for concern.

“I do know that they’re going to play really, really well and hard on defense, be very difficult to scheme against, and then especially with (junior wide receiver Jalen) Reagor and (senior running back Darius) Anderson, they have got two really explosive players on offense too,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said.

Both players and Herman pointed toward TCU’s strong defense. TCU has allowed 148 points in six games, but has some of the best defensive players in the Big 12. Junior linebacker Garrett Wallow is ranked second in the Big 12 in tackles with 40 solo and 23 assisted.

Junior defensive tackle Ross Blacklock and senior safety Innis Gaines pose major threats to the Texas offense. Blacklock has 3.5 total sacks and will threaten Texas’ pass protection, which has been called into question since the Oklahoma game.

“Number 90 (Blacklock) is a load,” Herman said. “He’s as good a defensive tackle as we’ll play this year. No. 6 (Gaines), their nickel, is a really, really active player. So they’re going to be really, really well-coached defensively and they are.”

Junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger also pointed out their defensive line’s consistency and how Texas’ offense will be challenged.

“They are obviously an incredible defense,” Ehlinger said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us offensively this week. I think what they do, they do it well. And there’s not very much variation in what they do, but it works for them because they’re really good at what they do.”

Like many of the teams Texas has faced, TCU also has a solid offensive line paired with excellent skill position players. Anderson ranks fourth in the Big 12 for rushing and trails only players such as Kansas’ Pooka Williams and OU’s Jalen Hurts, players Texas has struggled to stop.

Sophomore linebacker Joseph Ossai knows Texas has faced tough competitors but said those challenges in the future will help the Longhorns improve.

“TCU has a pretty explosive back, so seeing him is going to help us too,” Ossai said. “There’s always challenges, and as defense you want to keep working and keep challenging yourself and hopefully those challenges can keep getting us better and keep giving us confidence as we go.”

Every week for the Longhorns will be a greater challenge as they try to remain afloat in the Big 12 championship conversation. With a growing sense of urgency brewing, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said he’s felt this urgency all season and believes his young defense will rise to the occasion.

“You start to get into the month of November and you start talking about championships,” Orlando said. “I mean, you have to be playing some of your top ball. So, I mean, we’re a couple of weeks away, and obviously, we’re going into a hornet’s nest. But there is (a sense of urgency), and like I said before, we got a great crew of kids. They work their tails off but, you know, we’re trying to grow them up as fast as we can.”