Texas defense shows up, shuts down UNM

AUSTIN, Texas -- Longhorns and dairy products don’t mix.

Just ask Texas strong safety Adrian Phillips, who thinks the Longhorns defense ate the cheese attached to the complacency trap prior to its mediocre performance against Wyoming in their season opener.

“We might have been feeling ourselves a little bit,” Phillips said. “We had people out and about telling us how good were are. Last week we kind of ate the cheese and Wyoming got after us.”

It led senior All-American safety Kenny Vaccaro to call out the defense for reading too many press clippings about how vaunted Texas’ defense was supposed to be.

“Honestly, we need to get our head out of the magazine and play hard,” he said after the Longhorns beat Wyoming 37-17.

If articles were read this week, the Longhorns defense made sure they were about the 66 points New Mexico scored in its season opener. The focus paid dividends as Texas dominated the Lobos’ triple-option attack in a 45-0 shutout. It was the program’s third shutout in the last 87 games.

“This week we made sure that we were going to go back to the basics and not worry about what anyone says because at the end of the day this is our defense,” Phillips said. “We are going to do what we have to, to come out with the win.”

On Saturday, that largely consisted of being disciplined on reads to try and contain a New Mexico run game that rushed for 347 yards and five touchdowns against Southern last week.

Manny Diaz’s crew allowed 206 rushing yards on 47 carries and just 35 yards through the air on 16 attempts. The deepest the Lobos got into Texas territory was the Texas 29 and that came on their first drive.

“If you don’t give up long runs or passes for touchdowns, you always have a chance,” Diaz said. “Even though there was some plays we are disappointed about.”

Those plays largely consisted from what New Mexico was able to do on third downs. The Lobos, who never posed a threat through the air, converted 4 of 8 third-downs in the first half.

Texas made some adjustments in the second half, including answering head coach Mack Brown's call to have more fun, and held the Lobos to just 2-of-7 on third down attempts in the second half.

The Longhorns defense also kept New Mexico’s offense off the field for five minutes less than the first half, which allowed Texas’ offense to get into more of a rhythm and get more young players prepared for the season’s haul.

“The best thing about tonight, it was a fun game for the whole team,” Brown said. “When we didn’t put our foot on the gas and finish the game at 31-9 last week, we dominated the second half tonight. And everybody got to play. It makes your football team better.”

The Longhorns have seen both ends of the offensive spectrum in their first two games. First it was Wyoming and its dual-threat quarterback, Brett Smith, who wasn’t afraid to test Texas’ corners. In New Mexico, Manny Diaz had to scheme for a triple option attack that was allergic to the idea of a two or even three-step drops.

Now Texas must turn its attention to an Ole Miss offense predicated on the run, but one that has proven it can move the ball through the air.

“I think the schedule sets up perfectly for us going into Ole Miss because you play against Wyoming and it’s a four and five wide out pass attack," Brown said. "And you play against New Mexico and it’s an absolute triple-option offense. Ole Miss is a combination of both. We’ve gotten enough option work tonight that we sure don’t have to work on it again the rest of the year.”

The centerpiece of Hugh Freeze’s offense is junior college transfer quarterback Bo Wallace, who entertained the idea of a possible Texas transfer at one point.

He has been better than advertised so far going 35-of-46 for 438 yards, including touchdown passes of 53, 25, 55, 51 and 3 yards. He has also rushed 24 times for 148 yard and two touchdowns.

“Each week we are going to do our stuff so it doesn’t really matter what the offense does,” Phillips said. “We heard they are kind of a mix between Wyoming and New Mexico, and heard they have some playmakers out there. But each week we are just going to put stuff in and do what we need to do to come out with the win.”

That includes not eating any cheese.