Saturday, October 31, 2009

Texas defense: ‘We’re the firemen’


— The No. 3 Texas Longhorns have given up 15 turnovers this season and have yet to pay much of a price for it.

The defense simply won’t allow it.

On the ensuing drives after the turnovers, opponents have scored just one touchdown and one field goal. Seven of those possessions went for negative yards. Four ended when the defense got the ball right back with a fumble recovery or interception of its own.

“We tell the guys we’re the firemen,” defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said, “and we have to go put out the fire.”

The only scores after Texas turnovers came in the first game, when Louisiana-Monree kicked a field goal, and when Colorado scored a touchdown after recovering a fumble inside the Texas 10. Texas-El Paso scored a touchdown on an interception return, but that technically didn’t come against the Longhorns defense.

Muschamp demands that his defense be able to control the “sudden change” of momentum produced by a turnover. And the biggest plays have come in the biggest games.

Against Texas Tech, the Red Raiders could do nothing with two interceptions. Against Oklahoma, the Longhorns defense came to the rescue three times, each of them critical in a 16-13 win.

After a first quarter fumble by Colt McCoy, Texas held the Sooners to minus-2 yards, knocked quarterback Sam Bradford out of the game and forced a punt. After McCoy fumbled again in the second, Texas pushed Oklahoma backward 13 yards and forced another punt.

After McCoy threw an interception late in the fourth, the Longhorns put the game away four plays later when Earl Thomas snagged Texas’ second interception.

“We don’t ever want them to score,” Muschamp said, “whether it’s from the three or the 50.”

Texas (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) forced just 12 turnovers all of last season. The Longhorns already have 21 this season heading into tonight’s matchup with No. 13 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-0).

Thomas has five interceptions. He returned one against Colorado 92 yards for a touchdown, the longest pickoff return for Texas since 1936.

“They’re a fast defense and playing with a lot of fire,” Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson said. “Right now, they’re just playing relentless.”


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