Before sophomore kicker Cameron Dicker stepped in and saved the Longhorns against Kansas, Texas had just given up a 75-yard drive in just over a minute and a half. Dicker’s kick won the game but couldn’t shield the Longhorns from questions asking about the state of the program.
“Understand that the sky is not falling,” head coach Tom Herman said on Thursday. “We are plenty good enough that if we play our best in Fort Worth, we're plenty good enough to win the game.”
The Longhorns didn’t play their best and as a result, dropped the TCU game after barely surviving against Kansas last week. Texas’ defense, which has been on pace to finish near the bottom in school history, once again wasn’t able to come through with stops when they were needed the most.
TCU’s second quarter touchdown drive was indicative of Texas’ defense this year. Senior defensive lineman Malcolm Roach had back-to-back tackles for losses, leaving the Horned Frogs with a third-and-17 — the same down and distance LSU converted to ice the game in Week Two. Unfortunately for Texas, history repeated itself as freshman quarterback Max Duggan found sophomore tight end Pro Wells streaking down the middle of the end zone.
“It's always pretty tough and you know, as a defense you want to be able to get three and out on offense you want to be able to put points on the board at the end of the day,” senior safety Brandon Jones. “Those guys are on scholarship, and they scheme and game plan just the same way we do. So, at the end of the day, we just have to make more plays.”
“Making plays” has been a common phrase from many of the players. To them it’s not a matter of scheme or being less than any team they face, it’s simply a matter of doing their job when the time comes.
“Everybody keeps talking about how we're not good and we're not this, and if you watch film, we actually do good,” freshman defensive lineman Keondre Coburn said. “It’s just that they make better plays when they're supposed to.”
To Coburn’s credit, he was correct. Texas held TCU to 13 points in the first half. It wasn’t until the second half — when TCU scored on four of its six drives — that the Horned Frogs took the lead. However, this is the fifth consecutive week Texas has given up 30 points to an opponent. The Horned Frogs scored 24 of their 37 points in the second half alone.
Texas’ inability to stop teams in critical moments hurts the team on the field, but also its leaders and captains.
“I take every game personally,” Roach said. “I'm a leader in that locker room. I'm a leader with defense. So I feel like I have to do something better for the team to get better. So I'll take it very personally.”
Texas heads into the bye week 5-3 hoping for key starters to make their much-needed return with Kansas State waiting on the other side. There’s a laundry list of things Texas can work on during its off week, but the defense is the top priority. Herman realizes that and is very aware of the condition of his defense right now.
“We’re not good,” Herman said. “And we need to be better.”