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Texas’ notable number: The Longhorns' defense in the red zone — and the number 32

Each week this season, we’re looking at a specific number tied to Texas football.

This week’s notable number is 32 — the jersey Texas has assigned to running back Daniel Young and defensive lineman Prince Dorbah. The Longhorns are averaging a Big 12-low 32 penalty yards per game. The UT offense has recorded 32 touchdowns of at least 80 yards in its history.

Thirty-two also is the number of points Texas has allowed in its red zone this season.

While posting a 2-1 record, the Longhorns have seen opposing offenses enter the red zone 12 times. Seven have resulted in points. That rate of 58.3% ranks 12th nationally. 

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Of the five scoreless sequences inside the Texas red zone, one ended with a kneel-down by Arkansas. But Texas closed out its wins over Louisiana and Rice with red zone sacks. The Longhorns also recovered a Louisiana fumble at the 13-yard line, and Rice missed a 30-yard field goal last week.

"The red zone defense, it's game time. It's the war zone,” Texas defensive lineman Jacoby Jones said. "That's one of the big emphases, playing great in the red zone. We want to be very effective in the red zone. A lot of games are won in the red zone."

Pitching a shutout inside the 20 is a defensive coordinator’s dream, but it isn’t a realistic goal over the course of a season. In fact, the best red zone defense over the previous 10 years — Alabama's in 2011 — allowed points at a 58.8% clip.

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When Texas coach Steve Sarkisian talked about his red zone defense earlier this season, he stressed limiting the damage. Of the seven red zone scores against Texas this season, four have been field goals.

"Getting a third-down stop in the red area's worth four points," Sarkisian said. "If you can force a field goal there instead of a touchdown, that's a big win. We really celebrate those with our defense."

Since 2014, Texas has twice had a top-20 red zone defense. The Longhorns ranked 17th in 2018 with a 76.5% rate. In 2014, UT's mark of 75.0% was the 19th-best effort by a Football Bowl Subdivision-level defense.

Last season, UT's opponents scored points on 81.6% of their trips into the red zone. Fifty-one defenses across the nation fared better. One of those defenses belonged to Washington, which posted a 78.6 rate and a No. 37 ranking while being led by current Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski.

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Red zone defense "is just another thing of dealing with adversity,"  Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown said. "The offense gets a big play; they get inside the red zone; it's our job to keep them out of the end zone.

"Coach had a goal for us, and that's at the end of the day, keep them under 20 points. If we can hold them in the red zone to field goals or blocked field goals or turnovers in the red zone, we're doing our job."

"We just have the mentality that even when our backs are against the wall, we're not going to let them in," says Texas defensive lineman Ovie Oghoufo, trying to bring down Rice quarterback Wiley Green last weekend.

Texas defensive lineman Ovie Oghoufo said this week that "we just have the mentality that even when our backs are against the wall, we're not going to let them in." The Notre Dame transfer, however, had an ideal red zone scheme for UT's upcoming opponents.

"Shoot, the goal is for them to not get in the red zone," Oghoufo said.

This week, Texas will face an undefeated Texas Tech team that has turned 11 of its 12 red zone opportunities into points. In its victories over Houston, Stephen F. Austin and Florida International, Texas Tech has scored eight red zone touchdowns. A lost fumble at Houston's 2-yard line has been the Red Raiders' lone red zone blemish.

During a shootout that Texas won in overtime last year, Texas Tech took seven trips into the Longhorns' red zone. The Red Raiders turned those opportunities into five touchdowns, a missed field goal and an interception.

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Other notable numbers

Louisiana: Veteran offensive lines a key to both teams

Arkansas:Texas running backs involved in the passing game, too

Rice: Longhorns stand behind Cameron Dicker despite slow start