Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Texas D-line will key Red River for Horns
By David Ubben
There's one word you'll hear most often when talking to a Texas defensive lineman.
Talk to Jackson Jeffcoat, and it comes up about every sentence: "Uncomfortable."
That's how the Horns want any quarterback to be, and that discomfort can come in a variety of ways. Maybe he's just got a hand in his face. Maybe he's got a guy running at him. Maybe he's uncomfortable while having his shoulder planted into the turf, with or without the ball.
Alex Okafor, the Big 12's leader in sacks, will be pressuring Landry Jones in the Red River Rivalry.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was certainly uncomfortable while watching Jeffcoat pounce on a fumble in the end zone Saturday night in Austin.
Whatever it looks like, the defensive line's goal is simple.
"That’s been our goal, to get pressure. I think we got four sacks [against West Virginia] as a unit, which is big, and that’s what we want to continue to do, just get pressure on the quarterback," Jeffcoat said. "It doesn’t even have to be sacks. Maybe it’s just pressure and making him throw the ball away or throw an interception. That’s our goal, to keep a quarterback uncomfortable."
They've been pretty good at it thus far. Alex Okafor won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after forcing Smith to fumble on both of his sacks, one recovered for a score by Jeffcoat and another recovered at West Virginia's 13-yard line. Okafor even managed to block a field goal with his face mask.
"They’ve played really well. We felt like we needed pressure on the quarterback on Saturday and they got four sacks and created three fumbles and West Virginia’s got an older, very accomplished offensive line. They’ve got a good scheme," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "Alex Okafor, he and Jackson Jeffcoat are two of the best defensive ends in the country and they’ve got to continue to play well."
Okafor took the Big 12 lead with his fifth and sixth sacks of the season against West Virginia, a total that ranks 12th nationally. Jeffcoat is in the No. 4 spot in the Big 12 with 3.5 sacks of his own.
This week, their efforts to make the quarterback uncomfortable will be more important than ever, with Oklahoma's Landry Jones waiting in Dallas for the Red River Rivalry.
"I haven’t watched a lot of film, but I’ve seen a little bit, and he gets a little uncomfortable with pressure," Jeffcoat said, "and that’s why we have to get to him, we definitely have to get to him."
Jones is the school's all-time leader in touchdowns and passing yardage with 100 touchdown passes and more than 13,000 yards.
He's also thrown 43 interceptions. Make him uncomfortable, and big things could happen.
"I see a confident quarterback who can sit back in the pocket and can deliver the ball to whoever he needs to throw the ball," Jeffcoat said. "He’s very accurate. We want to make sure he’s uncomfortable and not allow him to tear us apart."
He tore Texas Tech apart, but Kansas State made Jones move, forced him out of the pocket and he coughed up a fumble for a touchdown and threw an ugly interception, too.
After the game, the K-State defensive line made it clear: That was the game plan. Get Jones moving and make him uncomfortable. It'll keep him from shredding defenses and there might be big plays in store for an opportunistic secondary or an enterprising lineman or linebacker who catches Jones in the backfield.
Texas' defensive line is more than capable of making it happen. If not, life could get a little uncomfortable on the Texas sideline.