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Why is the Longhorns defense struggling so much?

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(Getty Images)


AUSTINBy Jake Meltzer/Contributor

Missed tackles, injuries, lack of discipline, inexperience. All of these are reasons that this Texas Longhorns defense has struggled mightily throughout the 2019 season, but what is the excuse for being the 119th ranked team in the nation in total defense?

The ‘Horns are allowing a whopping 469.9 yards per game and there are only two other power five teams’ ranked lower than them in that category. While the Longhorns pretty 5-2 record and efficient offense has been appealing to the eyes of fans, they have allowed a combined 1,084 yards in their two losses of the season and saw their playoff hopes flash before their eyes last week…at home against Kansas.

How the Longhorns stack up against the rest of the conference in these defensive categories:

Yards Allowed Per Game: 469.9 YPG (9th)
Points Allowed Per Game: 30.7 PPG (8th)
Yards Allowed Per Play: 6.4 YPP (Last)
Total TD’s Allowed: 26 Touchdowns (8th)
Sacks: 11 (8th)

Injuries

The Longhorns rank in the bottom three of the conference in every category listed above and stack up even worse when you compare them to the rest of the country. The performance of the defense this year has been a huge disappointment, especially considering how well Sam Ehlinger and the offense have played. Unfortunately, the one thing that has remained consistent throughout all of this are injuries. It seems as if someone new goes down every week. 

When asked about how the injury bug has impacted their defensive performance, Tom Herman immediately shut down any speculation that injuries should be the scapegoat for the teams’ play. He stated that “We’ve got standards at the University of Texas that we need to play up to, and we didn’t on that side of the ball.” Despite the fact that this team has had to play with some serious talent on the bench due to injuries, Herman wants to waste no time making excuses.

Here is a current list of some key injured Texas defenders:

- Caden Sterns (DB): Knee
- Chris Brown (DB): Forearm
- Josh Thompson (DB): Foot
- Jalen Green (DB): Shoulder
- Jeffrey McCulloch (LB): Collarbone

The amount of sidelined talent on this team is unfortunate for Coach Herman and his Longhorns, however, there is much more to the problem than just injuries. Their 62.29 penalty yards per game is ranked 91st in the country, a sign that this young team might just lack the discipline needed to be a great team. Their 51 total penalties on the year is good for 102nd in the country and is the second worst amongst all Big 12 teams. Texas has continued to give teams free yards and halted their own drives at time due to this.

This already-young team became even younger throughout the year, as it seems that a new Texas defender goes down every week. However, full roster or not, a team that gets penalized this much has no business in the College Football Playoff conversation. 

Historically Speaking

Texas had their worst defensive season in terms of total yardage back in 2015 when they allowed 452.6 yards per game. If the season ended today, their current 469.9 yards allowed per game would be the worst in school history. 

Meanwhile, Sam Ehlinger is having the season of his career and the offense is continuing to put up 30+ points on a weekly basis. Will this weak Texas defense overshadow this powerful Texas offense and ruin the ‘Horns hopes of having a successful year? While I don’t expect that to necessarily be the case, something needs to change with this defense if this team even wants a chance to even play in their own conference championship.

Here is Texas’ remaining schedule:

10/26: @ TCU (3-3)
11/9:  vs. Kansas State (4-2)
11/16: @ #23 Iowa State (5-2)
11/23: @ #14 Baylor (7-0)
11/29: vs. Texas Tech (3-4)