2023 Baylor Post Mortem: Defense & Not So Special Teams

by:Paul Wadlington09/24/23
On3 image
Pete Kwiatkowski (Will Gallagher/Inside Texas)

<p>The big guys up front must have skipped breakfast and lunch because they had an appetite for destruction on Saturday night. </p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.on3.com/teams/texas-longhorns/join/">[Join Inside Texas and get ONE MONTH of Longhorn intel for just $1!]</a></strong></p> <p>The game was over when the two teams ran out of the tunnel, but probably the most critical in-game moment came in the 1st half with Texas leading 21-3 and Baylor facing a 4th and 2 at midfield. The Bears elected to go for it and…ran at T’Vondre Sweat. Stuffed. No gain. Texas ball at midfield. And now it’s time to start figuring out what guys you want to get snaps in the 2nd half. </p> <p>Observe:</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter wp-block-embed-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <span class="Vo1KTyS53OPJpGsCVnTvNFLkhA2GewxPiXBZ30uIYDmRfvm8A8d1SaD9XEqd9CN5ZyQ6xLO"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="500" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The 4th and 2 play. You can quibble with the RBs path (maybe he should've pressed this outside and tried to bowl through the CB) but it's really beside the point. Sweat just absolutely destroys the RG at the point of attack <a href="https://t.co/JJi7hlIztN">pic.twitter.com/JJi7hlIztN</a></p>— Travis Roeder (@Travis_Roeder) <a href="https://twitter.com/Travis_Roeder/status/1705957807466365015?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 24, 2023</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></span> </div></figure> <p>If the Texas offense had installed the wishbone during the Friday walk through and the Longhorn special teams would have agreed not to field kicks, Texas would have still won on Saturday due to defensive domination. Good things happen when superior Jimmys and Joes meet well taught X’s and O’s. </p> <p>The decline in Baylor program talent was as apparent as Pete Kwiatkoski’s excellent decision that outside zone and the easy screen game weren’t going to be on the Saturday menu for the Baylor offense. Pete is 4-0 on his opponent game plans this year. Texas is 4-0. Coincidence? </p> <p>Texas played its big edge group liberally (Broughton and Collins), flirted with some 5 man front and 6-1 looks and gave the interior defensive line carte blanche to worry less about gap integrity and concern themselves more with kicking the person’s ass lined up across from them.</p> <p>Texas held Baylor to 365 garbage yards on 84 plays – a terrific 4.3 yards per play average – and then held firm twice when Texas special teams gifted the Bear offense field position on the Texas 21 and 19 yard lines, respectively. </p> <p>The net result of those red zone offerings? </p> <p>Bearly 3 points. </p> <p>The Horns also held the Bears to 6 of 23 on money downs, including a terrific 1 of 5 on 4th down. Texas registered 5 sacks overall, but more importantly pressure on Baylor QBs was withering and constant, even with 3 man rushes. Baylor threw for 305 yards, but the 53 attempts needed to make that happen isn’t good offensive math when you also factor in sacks and QB scrambles. </p> <p>Texas got off to a strong early start again (no Texas opponent has more than 7 points at half so far this year) holding Baylor’s 1st half run game to 11 yards on 17 carries and Sawyer Robertson to 13 of 24 for 110 yards. In the first half, 17 Baylor plays went for no gain or a loss. </p> <p>The Texas defense wasn’t just motivated. They were disciplined. They were only penalized once (a questionable PI on Taaffe) and they repeatedly sniffed out Baylor screens without sacrificing pass rush. </p> <p>Angry and focused is a devastating combination for a defense and props to Pete K and the Longhorn position coaches for getting them into that headspace. </p> <p><strong>DEFENSIVE LINE</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.on3.com/db/byron-murphy-ii-16298/">Byron Murphy</a></strong>, T’Vondre Sweat, Alfred Collins and Vernon Broughton totally dominated while Ethan Burke and Barryn Sorrell played disciplined and physical ball on the edge. </p> <p>Look at this terrific display of a 3 man pass rush:</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter wp-block-embed-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <span class="TdN5FsKi3rO7oMnqG5OIyYWLgNZazv3VSzTGXgB7SjkXPRH9jFEtfJ0nexwflmeUlcbDp2U8Q6A4cHQw42"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="500" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Texas DL Byron Murphy II continues to wreak havoc in opposing team's backfields! <a href="https://t.co/SVB7VfCIuA">pic.twitter.com/SVB7VfCIuA</a></p>— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) <a href="https://twitter.com/HookemHeadlines/status/1705734880246571320?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 24, 2023</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></span> </div></figure> <p>Byron Murphy rightfully gets sack credit with elusive power and motor inside, but please observe Sorrell at the bottom of the screen. He absolutely demolishes the Baylor tight end and places him in a twisted broken heap at the QB’s feet with a perfect bull rush while Alfred Collins does the exact same thing to Baylor’s offensive tackle up top. Both edges are in exact depth alignment, neither cheats to try to run around someone, there is no place to escape and that allows Murphy an easy finish inside. That’s a mesmerizing symmetry of violent coordination. With eight men in coverage. </p> <p>What about when Baylor tried personnel disguised play action for a big “gotcha” play? </p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter wp-block-embed-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <span class="R1ICkJEQfZxB3WmjpTLPSVv9wX0DznN"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="500" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Another look at <a href="https://twitter.com/jettbush?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jettbush</a> sack 🤘<br><br>📺 ABC <a href="https://t.co/XDN4PnXTbd">pic.twitter.com/XDN4PnXTbd</a></p>— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) <a href="https://twitter.com/TexasFootball/status/1705733505647366525?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 23, 2023</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></span> </div></figure> <p>Note that Baylor is in 13 personnel (3 tight ends) and their goal is to lure Texas into a heavy box and take a max protect shot downfield with a two man route vertical. Show power, throw deep. The problem is that they can’t block it because Jett Bush comes off of the edge like a bat out of hell, making the 250 pound tight end’s cross block ineffective. At the same time, Alfred Collins splits a double team and that’s who Robertson is feeling as Bush suddenly appears on his right. </p> <p>Big Motor Murphy finished with 3 tackles for loss and 2 sacks and a great goal line block. Sweat had a batted pass, two huge run stuffs, 4 tackles and utter domination at the point of attack. Four games in, Sweat is probably my B12 defensive MVP. Alfred Collins had several nice plays on outside zone and drew a hold on the goal line. </p> <p>Here’s some violence being Broughton on Baylor’s poor TE while Murphy whips the guard like he talked about his mama:</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter wp-block-embed-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <span class="LqyBxidGAD8HiVIzQzFESp7UlN4oJrgVrJqaotmWgMA017c0XCEbRxcXuPmOKeLkQW5nZfyZaYlC4RjHT"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="500" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">No hope for the RB. The 2i (Murphy) blows past the RG. The playside edge (Broughton) dominates the playside TE. When your RB is getting sandwiched by the backside 2i and playside 9t three yards in the backfield, you got dominated. <a href="https://t.co/QNbpOzJR0i">pic.twitter.com/QNbpOzJR0i</a></p>— Travis Roeder (@Travis_Roeder) <a href="https://twitter.com/Travis_Roeder/status/1705934981531361525?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 24, 2023</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></span> </div></figure> <p>Broughton was incredibly disruptive and this game plan and matchup spoke to him. #45 was swim moving dudes on run downs and he was absolutely destructive playing edge on the Baylor tight ends. He can manhandle smaller guys and has enough quickness not to get exposed against most offenses. </p> <p>Burke had a really nice sniff out on a screen and he’s a major plus on pass drops. Good lateral quickness and his 6’6″ frame really interferes with sight lines. He had a light load of snaps and that was anticipatable by game plan as Collins, Broughton and even Tapp got major play vs. Baylor’s run game. </p> <p>J’mond Tapp showed nicely in place of the injured Kris Ross. He’s being more physical and he looks to have practiced himself into better shape. Big QB hit in the 2nd half. </p> <p>Bryant, Bledsoe and Carter each got the most snaps of their season. </p> <p><strong>LINEBACKER</strong></p> <p>Best total unit game of the year. Anthony Hill drew 47 snaps and had six tackles, including a terrific effort in the 2nd half when his Spidey sense tingled and he cut off his pass rush to sprint through the trash across the field and make a tackle for no gain on a well-designed TE screen. I screamed “That’s a freaking linebacker play!” while hitting my coffee table violently which made my dogs leave the room. </p> <p>Jaylan Ford did stuff like on this 4th and goal gem: </p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter wp-block-embed-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <span class="pSeok65A0BSB4VFN8yI3ZUc0CKK4W9ihLjg2TamcGugMxJ1srwIAzXHRyDLvlzVEWnxaev6Ybnb5sN8"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="500" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Another look at the red zone INT earlier this quarter from Texas LB Jaylan Ford! <a href="https://t.co/wpLbXVEpKu">pic.twitter.com/wpLbXVEpKu</a></p>— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) <a href="https://twitter.com/HookemHeadlines/status/1705765620908769712?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 24, 2023</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></span> </div></figure> <p>Psst Jaylan, take a knee there, bud. He led the Horns with 8 tackles. His best game of the season against the run by a large measure. Very decisive. </p> <p>Eric Nahlin pulled this highlight featuring Gbenda and it illustrates his closing speed beautifully:</p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter wp-block-embed-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <span class="L"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="500" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">We knew David Gbenda was fast but his closing speed is different. <a href="https://t.co/q8y7eQWdz6">pic.twitter.com/q8y7eQWdz6</a></p>— EricInsideTexas (@EricNahlin) <a href="https://twitter.com/EricNahlin/status/1705850287808790822?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 24, 2023</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></span> </div></figure> <p>Jett Bush owes Gbenda a beer for the CYA there on the contain break. Great location of the ball and decisive action by Gbenda. </p> <p>Bush continues to be really violent at the point of contact on blockers. His position change has been great for him and Texas. I understand that nothing I write about Bush or Taaffe will change minds or lazy assumptions, so we’ll move on. </p> <p>Morice Blackwell got back into the mix and looked rusty at times, particularly in coverage. </p> <p><strong>DEFENSIVE BACK</strong></p> <p>Baylor’s WR corps is pretty fast and they have competent tight ends. Baylor’s offense isn’t good but they have shown a facility for deep shots and the Texas brain trust was comfortable singling up the Longhorn defensive backs so that Texas could bully the run game and hit the QB. They acquitted themselves well overall, though Ryan Watts (5 targets, 100 yards) and Malik Muhammad (9 targets, 74 yards) were the most effectively targeted Horns by the Bear passing game. </p> <p>Watts had a tough job covering some legit sprinters without safety help while also having to be cognizant of coming up hard when Baylor ran or screened to the boundary. Muhammad had a nice PBU on the boundary attacking through the receiver’s hands on a Baylor 4th and 5 on the Longhorn end of the field. It’s crazy how technically advanced he is in some areas. Once he’s filled out and more seasoned, he’s going to be a problem out there. </p> <p>Speaking of good problems, it’s very notable that freshman safety Derek Williams drew 54 snaps <em>and logged the most time of any safety. </em>#2 looks and moves different. The reasons for our safety rotations are now starting to crystallize. </p> <p>Want to see a cool hustle play? Note #16 at safety on the backside of this play. </p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter wp-block-embed-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <span class="IOTU0zWvqA5F7XyR"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="500" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This is a crazy play by Taaffe. <a href="https://t.co/pJpzQ28ykl">pic.twitter.com/pJpzQ28ykl</a></p>— EricInsideTexas (@EricNahlin) <a href="https://twitter.com/EricNahlin/status/1705841712327795167?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 24, 2023</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></span> </div></figure> <p>I wish I had the clip of Catalon coming downhill when Baylor tried a toss sweep on 3rd and 5, but ouch. </p> <p><a href="https://www.on3.com/teams/texas-longhorns/newsletter/join/"><strong>[Sign up NOW for the Inside Texas newsletter for Texas Longhorns daily updates and breaking news in your inbox!]</strong></a></p> <p><strong>SPECIAL TEAMS</strong></p> <p>Well, that was atrocious. Against a high quality opponent, a missed chip shot field a goal and two dropped punts in the red zone probably means a loss. Keilan Robinson also dropped a kickoff return but recovered it on the 12. Still, I have to praise the human missile launch tackle by Tre Wisner on kickoff coverage and some more excellent punting by Ryan Sanborn. </p> <figure class="wp-block-embed is-type-rich is-provider-twitter wp-block-embed-twitter"><div class="wp-block-embed__wrapper"> <span class="Gjc58iHYbUMfv2dFBxzArPENskQKaq0nC7tTwLy3JRpleDWVo9XZgu1OIS64h"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-width="500" data-dnt="true"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">We've talked a lot about this freshman class so it's time to add Tre Wisner's name to the mix<br><br>This was one of the hardest hits we've seen all year from this team<br><br> <a href="https://twitter.com/1waytreway?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@1waytreway</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HookEm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HookEm</a> <a href="https://t.co/9okO4MHz27">pic.twitter.com/9okO4MHz27</a></p>— Cory Mose (@Cory_Mose) <a href="https://twitter.com/Cory_Mose/status/1705946940394135641?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 24, 2023</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></span> </div></figure> <p><strong>FINAL</strong></p> <p>Texas played dominant defense on a day where 31 different Longhorn defenders logged snaps. Playing the three deep extensively is a huge program win and a developmental boon for freshmen like Hill, Williams and Tapp. </p> <p>For the year, Texas is surrendering only 12.5 points per game and opponents average a scant 4.5 yards per play while converting 30.5% of 3rd downs. The Horns already have 13 sacks and 7 turnovers in 4 games and Longhorn opponents have converted only 1 of 10 red zone visits into touchdowns. </p> <p>If these numbers continue against higher order offenses, the Longhorns are going to be a hard out. </p> <p></p>