Run defense proves pivotal in matchup with Baylor

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Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

After defeating the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry, Longhorn fans have a lot to be excited about. Not only is the team ranked in the Top 10, but it also has an inside track to the Big 12 Championship game. The fact this can be said about the Texas football team means one thing: Texas is back, right? In order to stay back, the Longhorns will need to take care of business against Baylor. Here are your keys to the game:

Tighten up the run defense

Although the defense did a good job of containing Oklahoma’s explosive quarterback Kyler Murray last week through the first three quarters, it allowed an abundance of chunk plays in the fourth. The Longhorns were up by three touchdowns before the Sooners began their comeback that came up just short thanks to Texas’ freshman kicker Cameron Dicker.

The Sooners ran for over 200 yards in the game, including a 67-yard run by Murray that cut the Longhorn’s lead to one touchdown. In last week’s win over Kansas State, Baylor ran for over 260 yards and was unstoppable on the ground.

While the Texas defense is much better than Kansas State’s, Baylor will still try to run the ball down the throats of defenders. If the Longhorns want to continue rising in the rankings, they will need defensive players such as senior defensive linemen Charles Omenihu and Chris Nelson to continue to step up and lead the unit.  

Maintain an offensive identity

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger has become what everyone has hoped and dreamed he would be when he took over for Shane Buechele last year: a star. His development has been obvious this season. Since the loss to Maryland in Week One, which seems like years ago, Ehlinger has thrown nine touchdowns and has rushed for six. Perhaps most importantly, though, he hasn’t thrown an interception since Week One.

Wide receivers Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey have both established themselves as big-bodied, dependable receivers, with Humphrey catching nine passes for over 130 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma. Their big frames, combined with the development of their quarterback, continue to result in dangerous weapons for Texas. 

Finally, the run game has finally caught a rhythm, as Tre Watson and Keaontay Ingram have formed a formidable duo. Coupled with strong special teams play and the always-dependable Dicker the Kicker, the offense needs to maintain its strong identity if it wants to contend for a possible Big 12 Championship and College Football Playoff spot.

Don’t lose focus

This one may be the hardest key to follow. It will be tough to shift the focus from last week’s nail-biter to this week’s game. It is very similar to the Kansas State game where, after playing two straight ranked opponents, the Longhorn offense played conservatively and narrowly escaped Manhattan with a 19-14 victory.

After the Baylor game is a challenging matchup against Oklahoma State on the road and then a likely top-ten matchup with West Virginia in Austin, which will have lasting implications on both the College Football Playoff and the Big 12. It is hard not to look past Baylor. 

However, Baylor is much improved from last year’s one-win team. The Bears are sitting at 4–2, with a 2–1 record in the Big 12. They have a decent run game, and their defense is nothing to scoff at. It will take a good game plan and focus to prevent a possible upset.