Big plays teach Longhorns' D a lesson

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Kenny Vaccaro neglected to look at the scoreboard at Faurot Field.

“I wouldn't say the better team won,” he said following Texas' 17-5 loss to Missouri. “I thought we were, physically, the more dominant team.”

Missouri thought otherwise.

“That's a good defense, but if you get couple of first downs, they get tired and they are not as good as they were at the start of the drive,” Tigers wide receiver T.J. Moe.

Missouri had more than just a couple of first downs. It had 19 and 338 total yards. It's not an astronomical number by Big 12 standards, but it is not an acceptable number by Texas’ standards.

The Longhorns’ defense, which preaches stopping the run, failed to do that in several big spots. Missouri rushed for 152 yards. Added to that quarterback James Franklin threw for a rather comfortable 186 yards on 18 of 26 passing.

Collin Klein, who had more airtime than Kirk Herbstreit Saturday night, is headed to Austin this week. The Kansas State quarterback is arguably the top dual-threat in the Big 12 (though Baylor’s Robert Griffin III might disagree). He singlehandedly kept the Wildcats in the game at Oklahoma State two weeks ago. He rushed for more than 100 yards, threw for more than 200 and had five touchdowns in the win over Texas A&M Saturday.

Oh, and he is already on the minds of the Texas players.

“We got to grow up quick,” defensive end Alex Okafor said. “We know we got another team coming into our house next week trying to take something away from us.”

What Missouri stole from Texas was the air of confidence and invincibility it had in its defense. While the overall performance was good enough to win, Texas is not blessed with offensive firepower, so the defense has to be spectacular. On two plays Saturday, it was not that.

The first was a 40-yard pass from Franklin to Moe to set up a touchdown. The other was Kendial Lawrence's 35-yard touchdown run.

The latter came after a questionable penalty and an emotional letdown by Texas, but the defense has enough veterans that it should be equipped to handle those kind of emotional swings.

“You got to eliminate the big plays to win,” Vaccaro said.

Against better teams, the Longhorns have yet to do that. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and now Missouri have all popped the Texas defense with plays for 35 or more yards that resulted in touchdowns.

Klein is all about the big plays. The quarterback chips away at defenses, and pretty soon, is busting a timely 15 or 20-yard run.

Now, adding to the problem for the defense is the health of linebacker Keenan Robinson.

The senior linebacker suffered a right thumb injury and was in a cast following the game. No official word has come from Texas, but his teammates thought he would be fine. Even if Robinson is able to play, tackling in a cast could prove difficult.

If Robinson is unable to go, Steve Edmond will fill in at that spot. Edmond is yet another true freshman that has had playing time, but now could be in the spotlight.

“You learn from this one,” Acho said. “A couple plays on defense kept us from winning it.”