Every week this fall, we’re looking at a number related to Texas football.
Today’s notable number is 16.
Sixteen is not a number worn by anyone at Texas, although quarterback Logan Vinklarek and defensive back Jermaine Roberts Jr., donned that jersey in 2015. Texas’ opponents have fumbled 16 times this year, and the Longhorns have recovered seven of those loose footballs. The most field goals made by a Texas freshman? Dusty Mangum’s 16 in 2001.
Sixteen also accounts for the number of Longhorns who have registered at least a half-sack in 2016.
Those 16 Longhorns — who range from Breckyn Hager (five sacks) to Anthony Wheeler (0.5) — have combined for 31 sacks. Nationally, those 31 sacks trail only Alabama’s 32. Clemson and TCU also have 31 sacks.
“If we can put pressure on the quarterback, that can result in either a turnover or a sack,” said Hager, a sophomore defensive end. “That can get our defense off the field pretty quick.”
Texas sacked Baylor quarterback Seth Russell six times, and the Longhorns also earned a safety when defensive lineman Paul Boyette Jr. was held in the end zone. Head coach Charlie Strong said this week that Texas blitzed more against Baylor than it had all season. He called blitzes whenever the Bears neared the red zone.
This pressure-packed philosophy was shared by former defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, who stated earlier this year that he preferred hits on the quarterback over sacks. In addition to its 31 sacks, Texas also has nine quarterback hurries.
“If the quarterback thinks there’s pressure going on when there’s not any pressure, that’s when you know you’re doing your job,” linebacker Timothy Cole said. “(We need to) make sure the quarterback’s mindset is he’s shaky or a little rattled in the pocket. That makes indecision and bad throws and stuff like that.”
Fourteen of Texas’ sacks have come on third down, and the 31 takedowns have accounted for 215 lost yards. Give those yards back, and Texas falls among its nationwide contemporaries from 112th (461.9 yards per game) to 119th (488.8) in total defense.
Here are some more sack-related facts:
- Texas averaged 38.5 sacks over Charlie Strong’s first two seasons.
- Texas’ eight sacks against Iowa State on Oct. 15 was tied for the program’s eighth-best showing.
- Oklahoma and Kansas State are the only teams to register more sacks than Texas in a 2016 game against the Longhorns.
Hager made headlines earlier this week when he said a defensive goal for Saturday’s game at Texas Tech was to “injure that quarterback.” Hager later apologized, but Texas knows it needs to get after Patrick Mahomes II, who’s leading the country in passing.
Texas Tech is churning out 600.3 total yards per game, second nationally only to Louisville (603.3). The Red Raiders have produced 4,005 passing yards, and Mahomes has thrown the football 399 times.
Texas Tech has surrendered 21 sacks, though. In addition to pressuring Mahomes, Strong said it was important for the Longhorns to keep Mahomes in the pocket. Should he scramble, Strong said a secondary allowing 258.5 yards per game must be patient and honor its coverage plans.
“Going against the No. 2 offense in the nation is the ultimate test,” Hager said. “We’re on the road, 11 a.m. This will really prove to everyone if we’re a great defense or not. We’ve got to buckle our chinstrap and get ready.”
PAST NOTABLE NUMBERS
Aug. 31: 4, and Texas’ new receivers
Sept. 8: 14, and Texas’ 18 Wheeler
Sept. 15: 21, and Texas’ penalties
Sept. 22: 12, and post-bye wins
Sept. 29: 18, and Texas’ third-down conversions
Oct. 13: 2, and Texas’ red-zone defense