Longhorn defense must improve at start of conference play

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Senior safety Dylan Haines chases a Notre Dame runner. Haines and the Longhorn defense have struggled through three weeks, giving up an average of 34.7 points per game.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford had plenty of questions to answer Wednesday as he addressed the media prior to No. 22 Texas’ battle with Oklahoma State.

After his defense surrendered 50 points at California in week three, Bedford’s job security was called into question. But following a vote of confidence from head coach Charlie Strong earlier in the week, Bedford said he’s only focusing on improving the Longhorn defense moving forward.

“We blew a lot of assignments,” Bedford said. “That’s because of a lack of communication and also bad tackling. If we clean those things up, we’re going to play a lot better.”

Many of Texas’ defensive issues stem from issues in the secondary. The Bears scored three touchdowns on passes of over 20 yards in Texas’ 50–43 loss in week three.

The Longhorn defense shouldn’t expect to see anything easier in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Junior quarterback Mason Rudolph leads a potent Cowboy passing attack, which ranks No. 11 ranking in passing offense through four weeks.

And Rudolph has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Junior wide receiver James Washington already boasts 25 catches for 488 yards in 2016. 

“He’s big, he’s physical, he’s strong, you have to be aware of him,” Bedford said. “He’s a running back playing wide receiver.”

Oklahoma State is one of many explosive spread offenses the Longhorns will face in Big 12 play. The conference accounts for four of the top 10 spots in the nation in total offense.

Bedford highlighted the need to generate turnovers against Oklahoma State’s powerful offense. Texas has just one takeaway in 2016.

“The biggest thing when playing spread offenses is you need to get takeaways,” Bedford said. “We haven’t gotten those this year.”

Texas’ defense must turn things around if it wants to compete for the Big 12 title. But Bedford is confident his group can make the necessary improvements heading into conference play.

“We’ve got an opportunity to go to Stillwater and play a lot better,” Bedford said. “We’re going to communicate, we’re going to execute and we’re going to make more plays.”