• The Texas’ defense has been very effective this season at holding quarterbacks bellow their averages.
    The Texas’ defense has been very effective this season at holding quarterbacks bellow their averages.

    Texas’ 43-0 shutout of Kansas on Saturday marked its most impressive defensive outing of the season and, arguably, the past decade. The Longhorns haven’t kept a team off the scoreboard since 2005 against Baylor, the year they won the national championship.

    Despite the fact that the Jayhawks are Big 12 cellar dwellers, they came into the game with a respectable offense that was averaging 30 points a game. So it’s really no small feat that Texas held them off the scoreboard.

    We could see signs of an improving defense in mid-October when the Longhorns held Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden to 218 yards passing, 158 yards under his average up to that point in the season. While Texas lost the game, the defense proved it could hang with a top-tier passing offense.

    This past weekend, first-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s defense held Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb to 46 yards through the air, 155 yards under his average. However, OSU and Kansas are at two different spectrums in the college football world, the Texas secondary held the Jayhawks to 374 percent fewer yards.

    “We were seeing the improvement in the last couple weeks,” Diaz said. “We had mainly been playing passing teams, and last week we just hadn’t seen that kind of running yet. It was nice to see our guys being disruptive and making plays on the ball.”

    Freshman cornerback Quandre Diggs added to his “Diaper Dandy” resume with his second interception of the season, while the rest of the secondary broke up three passes. Overall it was a performance that places the Texas pass defense at No. 21 in the nation, allowing 192 yards a game.

    Let’s not forget about the front seven though. Coming off a week where it allowed 202 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to the Cowboys, the Texas front line more than compensated for its dismal showing. The Jayhawks rushed for -2 yards on 20 carries. To put that in perspective, Kansas had been averaging 188 yards a game, a statistic that would rank it in the top 30 today. Defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat silenced their critics who were saying they weren’t getting to the quarterback enough, registering two of the Longhorns’ three sacks. After holding the Jayhawks to negative yards, the rushing defense improved to No. 18 in the nation, giving up a stingy 104 yards a contest.

    Right now, the Texas defense sits at No. 13 in the country (296 yards a game), a fair spot coming off the grueling mid-October stretch the team faced. Texas Tech travels to Austin this Saturday bringing with it the No. 8 total offense in the nation (508 yards per game) and the memory of a huge win against Oklahoma in Norman. The Red Raiders are for real, so it should be a good test for the improving Texas defense.

    “They can stretch you vertically down the field, and of course, they’ll have you spread out so they can stretch you horizontally as well,” Diaz said. “It’s quite a challenge.”

    Printed on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 as: Defense holding QBs under their average

  •  Week 8 of the fantasy season is now complete, so here are a few players that knew how to compete and those whose expectations they did not meet.


    1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
    Quick: Name the NFL’s leading rushing team? Done guessing? Well I’m willing to bet that none of you chose the Eagles, a historically pass-happy squad that has had a change of heart in 2011, averaging a 179.9 yards on the ground. The bulk of those yards have been gained by a lightning quick second-round pick from Pittsburgh, LeSean McCoy. McCoy had been the best running back in football this season, averaging more than 100 yards a game, even before this weekend’s performance. He cut through the top-ranked Dallas run defense like butter for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

    2. Maurice Morris, Detroit Lions
    Jahvid Best is hurt and that means someone has to get the carries in the Motor City. That person is Maurice Morris, who had a good game on Sunday as Best’s replacement, rushing for 58 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Morris, who is available in 86 percent of ESPN fantasy football leagues and should continue to see touches even when Best comes back to keep him healthy, is a solid pickup.

    3. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
    The Steelers have always been known as a run-first offense, but they have an All-Pro quarterback behind center and they have decided that throwing the ball is the best way to win ball games, which makes Pittsburgh receivers viable fantasy options. While you will not be able to pick up the Steelers No. 1 option, a solid No. 2 is still available in Antonio Brown, who has had more than 10 points in each of the past two weeks and is the Steelers’ most targeted wideout. He is still available in 76 percent of leagues and is a solid wavier pickup this week.


    1. John Beck, Washington Redskins
    Whenever your team gets shut out, it will be a rough week for the quarterback. For one that is competing for his job, it could be devastating. This is exactly the situation Beck is in after the Bills shutout the Redskins 23-0 on Sunday. Beck threw for only 208 yards and added two interceptions. After that performance, it remains to be seen if the quarterback carousel in the nation’s capital comes back to Rex Grossman this coming Sunday.

    2. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
    Rookies will take their lumps and Gabbert took his on Sunday against the Texans. He threw for only 97 yards and two interceptions on a 10-of-30 passing performance in a 24-10 loss. The Jaguars’ league-worst offense was held to only 174 yards in this game.

    Printed on Tuesday, Novemeber 1, 2011 as: McCoy runs over Cowboys, remains top fantasy player