LUBBOCK — Numbers never lie. They just may not always tell the whole truth.
The Texas defense has allowed 71 points and 1,106 yards over its last two games. However, a handful of defensive stops over those two weeks have led to wins over Baylor and Texas Tech.
“This defense, we’re just trying to find our identity,” sophomore linebacker Edwin Freeman said. “(We’re trying to) keep building off the positive and getting to where Texas’ defense needs to be.”
One week after Texas held Baylor to a touchdown and two field goals over four second-half trips inside the Longhorns’ 10-yard line, Texas made another stand. The Longhorns stuffed quarterback Patrick Mahomes II on a fourth-and-1 attempt in the fourth quarter, and defensive back Kris Boyd sealed the victory with an interception in the end zone.
Texas surrendered 482 yards to Texas Tech, which leads the nation in total offense (603.4 yards per game). But the Red Raiders, who also have the country’s second-best scoring offense (47.4 points per game), was held to less than 50 for only the fourth time this season. One of Texas Tech’s five touchdowns was scored by its defense.
“We’ve always been criticized about how our defense plays on the road,” said defensive lineman Paul Boyette, Jr., who was credited with the stop of Mahomes. “We knew it was going to be a good challenge ahead for us. What other way would you want it? Coming on the road playing against the No. 2 offense in the nation.”
Jefferson speaks: Sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson led Texas with eight tackles. Working as a spy against Mahomes, who entered the game with 10 touchdown runs, Jefferson also recorded 1.5 sacks.
In the spotlight since his arrival in 2015, Jefferson had struggled this season and was benched for the end of the Kansas State game and the start of last week’s Baylor game. The Big 12’s preseason defensive player of the year wasn’t sidelined for long, though, and responded with nine tackles and a sack against the Bears.
Speaking with the media for the first time since his benching, Jefferson said he understood and accepted his short stint on the sideline.
“It humbled me,” Jefferson said. “I’ve just got to go back to my roots. I had a long talk with Mom, and that always makes me feel a little special. I can definitely say my parents and God have helped me out through this whole process.”
Wheeler out: Texas was without sophomore linebacker Anthony Wheeler, who was attending his grandfather’s funeral. Wheeler leads the Longhorns with 60 tackles, and he had also forced two fumbles this season.
“Our hearts go out to him and his family,” said Freeman, who rooms with Wheeler on the road. “It’s just, like, a missing piece.”
Wheeler’s backup on the depth chart, freshman Jeffrey McCulloch, had three tackles. He also recovered a fumble.
Odds and ends: Backup offensive lineman Tristan Nickelson remained in Austin because of a head injury. The Longhorns had previously announced that receiver Lorenzo Joe would miss the game with a shoulder injury. … Sophomore John Burt, who had 111 receiving yards in Texas’ season opener but has since been hampered by injuries and dropped footballs, was dressed but did not play. … Freshman running back Kyle Porter recorded a career-high 51 yards in a backup role, but also lost a fumble on one of his six rushing attempts.