To dial up a young defense, Texas believes it must get risky

Texas defensive end Hassan Ridgeway sacks Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Tim Heitman/Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This is a remarkable stat Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford provided this week: the Longhorns blitzed on 18 of Oklahoma’s first 20 snaps in the Longhorns’ victory at the Cotton Bowl.

Blitzes can wreak havoc on an offensive line and start a quarterback’s head spinning, but it’s also a risky call, particularly that often, threatening to expose a defense to big plays because of mismatches down field. But it worked against OU. The early pressure set the stage for a six-sack game, nearly half of Texas’ 13 sacks on the season.

It served as breakout game for a beleaguered defense that surrendered 38 points to Notre Dame, 45 to Cal and 50 to TCU. The pressure threw OU off balance and gave Texas a swagger and a new attitude. Expect more of the same when Kansas State (3-3, 0-3 Big 12), with its back against the wall following three consecutive losses, visits the Longhorns (2-4, 1-2 Big 12) on Saturday.

"We said this needs to happen,” Bedford told reporters during his weekly press conference. “We didn’t know how well we’d match up with their receivers, so our thought process was let’s see if we can put pressure on the quarterback and see if he can make a play.”

Bedford said bringing pressure wasn’t a new game plan for Oklahoma, but that players simply didn’t make the plays they did against the Sooners. He estimated 10 to 15 sacks have gotten away.

The one that didn’t get away was late in the fourth quarter when linemen Naashon Hughes and Poona Ford swallowed up Mayfield and sealed the huge victory.

"We need to be aggressive,” Bedford said. “We have a lot of young kids, so in order to be aggressive, you have to call an aggressive game.”

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