Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: Texas’ big win over TCU proves that with this team, it should all start with defense

Posted September 22nd, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Texas beat TCU 31-16.
  • The defense held TCU to only three points in the second half.
  • Texas forced four turnovers.
  • The Horns improved to 3-1 entering Saturday's game at Kansas State.

Congratulations, Longhorn Nation.

Your four-year TCU nightmare has finally come to an end.

The Texas Longhorns just beat the Horned Frogs with a belly-rubbing, ball-hawking defense leading the way.

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Todd Orlando’s pupils tackled in bunches. They played free-wheeling, aggressive football with no signs of that uncertainty we witnessed in the second half of the Tulsa game. They bailed out the offense when it sputtered. They covered each other’s backs and played to the crowd of 95,124 at DKR as the hip hop blared from the loudspeakers during timeouts.

In short, they played like the best defense in the Big 12.

If you’re looking for an illustration of the progress over the last couple of weeks, start on the opening drive when TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson connected on 5-of-5 passes for 41 yards. Texas stopped the Frogs and allowed a field goal. Over the rest of the game,  the Horns allowed only 13 points and an average of 25 yards over TCU’s final 13 possessions.

TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson (3) fumbles the ball as he is tackled by Texas defensive back Caden Sterns (7), defensive back Davante Davis (18) and linebacker Gary Johnson (33) in the second half of a Big 12 Conference football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Robinson felt the brunt of the Texas pressure for most of the afternoon and while he made some nice plays, he eventually left the field after getting overrun on a Texas blitz.

“We had to get pressure on the quarterback all game long,” UT linebacker Gary Johnson said. “We couldn’t let him sit back there and be comfortable. Our D-line did a great job and the (secondary) made it easier on us.”

Most important, Texas took the ball away four times.  There were a few anxious moments here and there, but overall, it was easily the biggest defensive performance of the Herman/Orlando era.

Don’t look now, but Texas is 3-1 and surging, thanks in large part to the defense.

Texas linebacker Gary Johnson (33) wraps up TCU running back Sewo Olonilua (33) during an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here’s why: Johnson is as talented a linebacker as any in the Big 12. Chris Nelson and Co. are holding up their end up front. Cornerback Kris Boyd’s fearlessness is trickling down to his younger secondary mates, including freshman safety Caden Sterns, who is a lock for the national freshman All-America team if his health holds up. Sterns resembles a younger version of Earl Thomas with his innate gift for playmaking and being in the right place at the right time.

“Caden Sterns. Hell of a football player,” Herman said.

Co-sign.

If Saturday is any indication that Texas is about to return to those thrilling days of double-digit wins that it enjoyed under Mack Brown, then we will one day recall the night they cooked up some frog legs at DKR. The night of Boyd’s pass breakup in the end zone. The night of Marqez Bimage’s strip and Brandon Jones’ fumble recovery. The night Sterns followed up Collin Johnson’s diving touchdown catch with the sweetest interception of his early career.

And quite possibly the night Texas football announced its unofficial return to national respectability.

Enjoy this one, fan base. It’s been a minute since your Horns walked off the field against TCU a winner. If you’re looking for specifics, let’s go back to Oct. 26, 2013 when Brown, in his final season, lifted Tyrone Swoopes’ redshirt.  We remember that night even more for the three-hour weather delay at Amon Carter Stadium.

No one could have imagined then that a four-year drought would follow that storm.

Herman was hired to win these type of games and up until now, the only dub of note was last November at No. 24 West Virginia. This was huge because the defense made some mistakes but never stopped believing. Boyd was toasted a couple of times but made a touchdown-saving pass breakup in the end zone. Cornerback Davante Davis fell for a pump fake in the red zone but responded in the fourth quarter with a breakup at the 5-yard line.

Even TCU coach Gary Patterson showed some uncharacteristic give when he surprisingly punted the ball away on fourth-and-4, down two scores with 2:39 remaining. Sure, he blew his two timeouts afterward in an attempt to get the ball back, but it was as close to a concession as you will see without literally throwing in the towel.

Someone asked if he saw this coming from the Texas defense, which held the Frogs to three second-half points.

“You watch last week, they allowed USC minus-5 yards rushing,” Patterson said.  “I mean we went in there knowing they were going to be a good defense. We said for us to win this ballgame we were going to have to be the best defense on the field, and we weren’t. They allowed 16. We allowed 24.”

Actually it was 31, but who’s counting?

Texas is. As in counting a third straight win with a fourth that’s possible at struggling Kansas State next week.

The offense has made some strides, but it’s already common knowledge that the 2018 Longhorns will go as far as this defense will take them.

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