AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas defense has been bad.
A fire-the-coordinator-after-two-game kind of bad.
And even though that change has brought about some improvement, the defense is still giving up big points and big plays as Texas headed into Saturday’s annual showdown with Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The No. 12 Sooners have settled into a groove behind quarterback Blake Bell just in time for a rivalry that has been an embarrassment for the Longhorns the last two years.
Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) has averaged 54 points against the Longhorns (3-2, 2-0) the last two games, including a 63-21 rout last year, and have put the game out of reach by halftime.
“I don’t want to talk about last year,” Texas junior defensive back Quandre Diggs. “This isn’t the 2012 Texas Longhorns.”
The talk about the 2013 defense hasn’t been so good, either.
Texas was ranked No. 15 before a 40-21 loss at BYU in the second game. The Longhorns surrendered a school record 550 yards rushing against BYU and coach Mack Brown fired second-year coordinator Manny Diaz the next day.
Brown hired Greg Robinson, who had served one season as the Longhorns’ coordinator in 2004. In Robinson’s first game against Mississippi, Texas led 23-14 in the second quarter before losing 44-23.
Texas rebounded with a win over Kansas State and escaped Iowa State 31-30, but only after giving up a 97-yard touchdown pass and surrendering a lead three times. But the defense also made some big plays, holding the Cyclones to a field goal in the final four minutes instead of game-breaking touchdown, and forcing an interception to end Iowa State’s last drive. The Longhorns forced three turnovers in the second half against Kansas State.
Against the Sooners, the key will be not giving up a big early lead. In each of the last two years, Oklahoma ran the Longhorns out of the game by halftime.
“They were more physical than us,” Brown said. “The games were over before they started.”
The Sooners have a rushing attack that would seem perfectly suited to hammer Texas’ weakness against the run. Oklahoma averages 246 yards rushing per game and Bell, whose nickname is the “Belldozer,” ran for four touchdowns against the Longhorns last season
“We still have to find different ways to get him running the football and trying to break him loose from time to time,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
In Robinson’s only previous game against Oklahoma in 2004, Adrian Peterson rushed for 225 yards but Texas allowed only one touchdown in a 12-0 loss. But that game is ancient history even to Robinson, who struggled to remember the year when asked about it on Monday.
“When was that? Oh, ‘04 yeah. Yeah, that was a while ago,” Robinson said. “I think (this year) is an opportunity for us.”
But last year is still very much on the minds of the Longhorns, even Diggs. He doesn’t want to talk about it, but certainly remembers it and expects his teammates to use it as motivation.
“I’m angry about it,” Diggs said. “And I’ll demand anger from everybody this week.”
OU vs. Texas
11 a.m., Saturday
at Cotton Bowl, Dallas