Questions about Texas 'D' arise after Aggie game

AUSTIN, TX For 11 games, the Texas defense walked and played like a dominant unit, and ranked among the best in the country. Opponents couldn't run, few could pass.

Then Texas A&M pushed them all over the field on Thanksgiving night, right up to the breaking point before the Longhorns pulled out a 49-39 victory to keep their unbeaten season intact.

Now No. 2 Texas (12-0) have to hope its defense isn't facing a crisis in confidence heading into Saturday's Big 12 championship game against Nebraska (9-3).

Coach Mack Brown predicts just the opposite.

"They will play their tails off," Brown said Monday. "They were mad. They are prideful kids. They were happy we won but they know it was not good."

The Longhorns could hardly do anything right against A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who picked them apart for 342 yards passing and four touchdowns and 97 yards rushing.

Only Texas Tech's Taylor Potts passed for more yards against Texas this season. Johnson's rushing total was the most by any player against the Longhorns this season and more than nine teams had against Texas.

Johnson put Texas on its heels with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Fuller on the third play of the game.

"It was the worst thing we could do. It gave them some belief early in the game," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said.

Muschamp ticked off a list of reasons why the Longhorns were bad against the Aggies.

"We had some missed communication, assignments, alignments, 13 missed tackles ... critical errors on third down," Muschamp said. "It makes for a long night. It falls on my shoulders."

Muschamp said he changed some coverage calls before the game that led to the broken coverage on the long touchdown pass at the start of the game.

But Texas also looked befuddled on how to stop a mobile quarterback who could throw and run. Nebraska may not have a similar player, but if Texas beats the Cornhuskers to reach the national championship game, the Longhorns may face Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who has 140 passing and rushing touchdowns, an SEC record.

The defense did come up with a couple of critical big plays against the Aggies. A fumble recovery set up a third-quarter touchdown and Earl Thomas school record eighth interception of the season killed a potential A&M touchdown drive in Texas territory.

Brown said the Longhorns are taking the approach that the defense had to rescue Texas in a 16-13 win over Oklahoma, so this time it was the offense's turn to provide the big plays.

"This one, the offense saved the defense," Brown said.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.