- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
AUSTIN, Texas -- Longhorns coach Mack Brown has made it perfectly clear that Texas’ defense is now operating under simplified standards.
“The only thing we're evaluating now is wins,” Brown said after Saturday’s game.
Stats are out the window, he says. Texas beat Baylor 56-50 on Saturday night. That is all. The rest is what it is. Let’s judge this win, then, by the new standard.
This week’s film breakdown took a different approach. As the Longhorns know well by now, the shootouts they’ve endured this season against Oklahoma State, West Virginia and even Ole Miss came down to a few critical moments.
Big or small, a handful of plays decided those wins and losses. When your defense is among the nation’s 20 worst in scoring and total defense, any game can hinge on a few stops or stumbles.
Here are five plays Texas’ defense made that won the Baylor game.
1. The first field goal
Second quarter | Situation: 2nd and 3, Texas 12 | Clock: 0:10
Josh Turner’s interception and a Baylor three-and-out were both big, but this play might’ve meant more.
Baylor got the ball back with a minute left in the half and drove 63 yards with ease. On this play, Nick Florence throws a jump ball to Terrance Williams in the back of the end zone. Williams hauls it in and tries to drag his feet for the score. He can’t do it.
That’s because Mykkele Thompson is in the right place at the right time. Quandre Diggs is covering Williams but can’t make the play. Thompson breaks on Williams just in time, throws up his right hand to swat at the ball and doesn’t permit any room to stay in bounds.
So the Bears settled for a 29-yard field goal. It’s the first of three Baylor field goals on the night. All three were serious moral and strategic victories for Texas.
2. Out of bounds, part II
Third quarter | Situation: 3rd and 18, Texas 25 | Clock: 7:20
This time, Florence fires off a deep ball into double coverage for Lanear Sampson.
He’s picking on the right double coverage: Carrington Byndom is in front of his receiver and Adrian Phillips is supporting from behind. Florence hits the throw perfectly, placing the ball right on Sampson’s facemask.
Sampson leaves the ground and makes the catch with Byndom right in his face. Texas’ junior corner doesn’t flinch and still fights for the ball, forcing Sampson to fall backwards and land out of bounds.
It’s a difficult play to convert regardless, considering Sampson is right on the sidelines, but Byndom’s post-catch battling ensures Sampson can’t land in bounds. Another Baylor field goal makes it 49-43.
3. Edmond’s forced fumble
Third quarter | Situation: 3rd and 1, Baylor 42 | Clock: 0:16
Big drive here for Baylor, which has just forced a Texas punt and is only down six.
The clock is running and Baylor can end the quarter without another snap, but Art Briles tries to catch Texas off-guard.
His Bears quickly hurry up and run a power dive play for Glasco Martin. He gets the yard he needs and more.
But as Martin busts through the pile of linemen, Steve Edmond is waiting for him. The Texas linebacker pops him up the middle with his right shoulder. His helmet slams into in the ball in Martin’s arms, and it squirts out.
Thompson recovers the fumble. Seven plays later, Texas goes up 56-43.
4. Missing on a mismatch
Fourth quarter | Situation: 3rd and 7, Baylor 47 | Clock: 10:17
Still lots of time left in the ballgame, right?
Baylor, now down by 13, could treat this as a two-down situation. Its high-powered offense is at midfield and its defense has been awful.
Florence locks in on the mismatch immediately but overthrows a jump ball to the 5-foot-10 Goodley. It floats harmlessly out of bounds. Had he looked left, Florence likely finds an open Tevin Reese for the first down.
Instead of trying for it on fourth down, Briles elects to punt and bet on his defense.
5. Baylor’s final drive
Fourth quarter | Situation: 15 plays, 94 yards, TD | Clock: 5:24 elapsed
The gamble succeeds. Texas punts after a five-play drive falters.
Yes, Baylor scores a touchdown on this possession. But considering the Bears got the ball with 7:21 remaining, this drive ends up being a surprising victory for UT.
Texas forces four Baylor third downs. The Bears run the ball six times with some success (6.6 yards per carry), but that also runs too much time off the clock.
Baylor is notorious for its quick-strike offense. A quick strike was needed here. Instead it takes 15 plays for Florence to find the end zone with a 1-yard run. But it’s just too late.
There’s less than two minutes left when Baylor squibs its kickoff to Texas, uses its three timeouts and gets finished off by a Joe Bergeron third-and-1 conversion.
Texas gives up the points but gets the win. These days, that’s really all that matters.