1. Missouri missed 18 tackles against Baylor last week, allowing the Bears to come back for a 40-32 victory in Columbia. Will Muschamp said Saturday's game will be all about making tackles in space.
"You look at Kendall Wright (No. 1 for Baylor) and David Gettis (No. 4 for Baylor)," Muschamp said. "They can stretch the field a lot after the catch. They hit vertical plays and hit underneath plays. One missed tackle in a space game, and those guys will make you pay for it.
"They've got a lot of good skill guys, but those are the two who jump out on film. Ernest Smith (No. 3 for Baylor) is a good player, but those two grab your eye.
"Last year, on third-and-5 we were in a deny defense, and they ran right past us. We have to have our eyes in the right place and tackle well in space."
Muschamp said the underneath routes Baylor runs can do a lot of damage because of the speed of Wright and Gettis.
"It's a run play is what it boils down to," Muschamp said. "When they're able to create a play like that and you miss a tackle, it's like missing a run fit up front and losing control of a gap. You just don't have any overlap players. So when they're able to create those sorts of plays it results in a big play."
Sergio Kindle said Texas is taking Baylor seriously.
"These guys can run," Kindle said. "They can play. If we want to be the best team in Texas, we gotta beat Baylor. They got Texas guys just like we do, and it's at their place, and they're coming off a great win against Missouri, so they are going to have some momentum coming into the game, and we just have to take it away from 'em and keep it."
2. Last week, Muschamp challenged his defense to finish better in the pocket and bring the quarterback down. Texas responded with seven sacks. This week, Muschamp is challenging his team to create turnovers (after the defense failed to force a turnover last week against UCF).
"When you deal with space teams like Baylor and (Texas) Tech, you're more apt to create some turnovers," Muschamp said. "The ball is in the air more. Coach Royal always used to say it, 'When you throw it there's three things that can happen, and two of them are bad.'
"The ball is in the air longer. We've got a chance to break on the ball and knock some balls loose in space, which we were only able to do one time Saturday (against UCF) and it was negated by a penalty. So we've got to continue to harp on that each week. It's been huge for us this year. We need to continue to do that."
Sergio Kindle said players got the message last week about getting after the quarterback.
"The coaches did challenge us last week because we led the nation in sacks (a year ago), and we've been a little down in that category," said Kindle, who has three sacks this season and a team-leading 25 QB pressures (tied with Lamarr Houston).
"I don't think we had a sack against Oklahoma State. Last year, there was a stretch from Game 3 on where we had two or three sacks per game. That wasn't like our defense, not our standard (not to have a sack), so we had to step it up."
3. With three games left in the regular season, there are a few defenses that can probably lay claim to being the best in the nation (Texas, Florida, TCU and Alabama - the top four in total defense). Coach Boom isn't worried about it.
"It's just a week to week deal," Boom said. "There's a lot of football left to play. You start looking at that stuff now, and it's poison. You just gotta keep movin' on."
The Predator (Sergio Kindle) also wasn't stopping to pat the Longhorns on the back.
"We want to be (the best defense)," Kindle said. "We won't be able to title ourselves a dominant defense until the end of the year. Even if we are No. 1, there's still things we can work on. We don't want to get complacent. Or get too big headed."
Kindle said Muschamp lets the players know when they are doing well and then they aren't.
"He'll smile when you're doing well," Kindle said. "But if not, he'll break some white boards and throw some pens. He'll say, 'Y'all want to be a dominant defense, don't you? Well, you're not playing like it.' But it will be a little more animated than that. But we thrive off of that, so it's all good."
4. Muschamp had some interesting thoughts when asked this week if his defense is better this year than last year.
"I don't think there's any question we're further along," Muschamp said. "I don't think the offenses we've played are as good as they were a year ago. I don't think the league is as good as it was offensively a year ago. That's why it's hard to ever compare year to year or player to player for me because every year is different.
"No one year is the same based on who you play or the type of offenses you face. There's so many different set of circumstances year to year. That's why it's difficult to say, 'Compare this to that.'"
When Boom was asked if he liked being ranked No. 1 in total defense, he said, "I like being 9-0."
5. Sergio Kindle said he feels good about the senior leadership coming from guys like himself, Lamarr Houston, Roddrick Muckelroy.
"I talk a little more than I thought I would," Kindle said. "But it's still in calm tone of voice. But I've never been in a situation like this, having a chance to be on a great team and be undefeated and getting closer and closer to a Big 12 (title) if possible or a national championship. I want to take full advantage of it and make sure everyone else enjoys this ride as much as I do."
Kindle said no one is as vocal as Roy Miller was last year.
"But there are several guys who throw in bits and pieces to make up for just as much as Roy had," Kindle said. "When some of the seniors get up there it's more of a brother-to-brother type friendship. The younger guys can take it two ways. We're trying to keep 'em calm and humble and make sure everyone's on the same page as we are because if we're not all in, it can't happen."
Kindle was asked if he can almost taste a Big 12 title and a chance to play for the national championship.
"That's what an unfocused person would say if they were just looking at the big picture," Kindle said. "But the big picture is the game we have this week with Baylor because who would have thought Iowa would lose to Northwestern. That's exactly what we don't want to fall into, so we have to focus on Baylor like it is the championship game."
Muschamp said he's been "real pleased with the work ethic and the approach to the daily grind through the season, especially here of late.
"We've been grounded in what we do," Muschamp said. "We approach every day the same. I don't feel like we're too high or too low walking into the meeting room. Guys are very business-like and understand what's at stake.
"And I think Lamarr Houston, Sergio Kindle and Roddrick Muckelroy have been the three guys who have really handled the team. You look at Ben Alexander and Deon Beasley, and the other seniors on our football team and they've certainly had a huge role in what we're trying to do.
"But I think those three have done a nice job and are major contributors on this football team as well as great people. They understand the work involved and know that nothing in life that's worthwhile comes easy and that's been their attitude all season."
6. Baylor starts 6-4 David Gettis at receiver and brings in 6-6 freshman Willie Jefferson (No. 17 for Baylor) off the bench. Despite Baylor's size at wideout, Muschamp said Texas won't be afraid to man up on the outside.
"We've got bigger corners so we'll play the way we play," Muschamp said. "We'll be cognizant of sometimes getting help over the top. That's why you recruit big corners. The way we play, you can't have little guys out there, you've got to have big guys."
Muschamp said Baylor doesn't feature as many quarterback running plays without Griffin, but he sees confidence growing among the Bears in the second year of Briles' offense.
"I don't know that there's the same emphasis on the quarterback runs obviously," Muschamp said. "You take your scheme and adapt it. He hasn't changed his offense. He's just adapted what he's doing. We can look at last year's film for route concepts and the run game with what they do with the back. There's a lot of carryover (even with Griffin out). They haven't changed what they do.
"They throw vertical, stretch the field patterns. Gettis is a 6-4 guy who can go up and high-point the ball. They'll bring in Willie Jefferson, a 6-6 freshman, and throw some fade balls to him. Art (Briles) is well versed in what he wants to do offensively, and he's starting to recruit to his style and the type of players he had at Houston. So we've got to do a great job of making sure we know where Wright and Gettis are all the time."
7. Texas continues to lead the nation in third-down defense. Muschamp's goal is to limit offenses to converting third downs only 30 percent of the time. Right now, offenses are converting just 23 percent (29 of 126).
"If you want to be good on third down, you better be able to rush the passer, which we've done a pretty good job of," Muschamp said. "You better be able to play some form of man, whether it's split safety or middle field man.
"But you've got to deny the ball on third-and-6 or third-and-7 or less to teams that want to run routes to the first-down sticks. Then, you've got to be able to complement things with certain forms of zone to be able to, in those longer yardage situations, let your rush get there. Then, you have to have a nice pressure package and attack protections, which I think our players have done a nice job of this year."
Muschamp's other goals for a game include:
--Limiting an offense to 5 yards or less per play for a game. (Currently, UT is allowing 3.5 ypp)
--Limiting an offense to 3.3 yards or less per rush. (Currently, UT is allowing 1.8 ypr)
8. Muschamp said Art Briles has done a great job of getting freshman QB Nick Florence (who threw for 427 yards in an upset at Missouri last week) to play at a high level after Robert Griffin went down with a season-ending knee injury.
"Art calls most everything from the sideline," Muschamp said. "I don't know that they've ever put as much on the quarterback. The passing game is probably not as far as it would be with a more experienced player, but we have to get ready for someone who just threw for 427 yards.
"We have a lot of respect for Gettis and Wright. I felt that walking off the field last year and in the locker room and what they do offensively and the problems they present offensively. I think our players have respect for them regardless because they know they have some playmakers.
"They're going to challenge us vertically down the field. I think we have respect for them because we know they have good players, especially at the skill position."
Florence was voted Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week by a panel of media over Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley last week. All McCoy did was throw for 470 yards, and Shipley set a school record with 273 yards receiving.
"Florence is creating a lot of big plays, and he's taking the ball to the right spot," Muschamp said. "When they get middle field coverage, he's working the single receiver. When they get split safety, he's working the front side. He's accurate with the football - 427 yards passing is a good day. He enrolled in January, so he's a little further ahead of his time there."
9. Muschamp gave some wide-ranging views about why the front on the Legion of Boom has been so good, the concepts behind his pass coverages and where the Longhorns' D can improve the most.
"Going into the year, we needed Lamarr (Houston) to play well," Muschamp said. "We needed him to be dominant. He's really played well. He's progressed each week. He's improved each week.
"I think we needed to get really good play out of Ben Alexander and Kheeston Randall within their roles within the team, and I think they've done a good job. We needed to develop another inside rusher, and Sam Acho has been a good move for us there.
"And then we've gotten really good play out of Sergio, Alex, Eddie and Sam at end, which kind of frees you up inside a little bit with some one-on-ones."
Muschamp talked about how he teaches pass coverages to his players.
"We teach everything by concepts, whether it's a 4-on-3 or a 3-on-2 match, and we tweak it week to week, based on the route concepts we see," Muschamp said. "When the players get a really good feel for what we do concept wise, it's really easy to adjust. But if they don't have a good feel for the concepts, it's really difficult to adjust because nothing makes sense.
"That's how we try and teach it from the beginning. We had some growing pains obviously. But we're getting to that point now as we're game-planning, we know our players can handle based on backfield set, based on tight end, based on run tilt. We can make checks on all those things within our package."
Muschamp said the LOB has been fairly mistake-free as far as mental busts.
"Nothing overly glaring or things we got hit on for some plays," Muschamp said. "At Oklahoma State, we had two busts for the entire game. It's attention to detail. It's a better job coaching on our part in preparing the players and not carrying as much or repping the right things in practice. That goes into not busting assignments.
"Your players are prepared to see what they're going to see on game day. Sometimes it's hard for us because people change an awful lot when we face them, so there's an awful lot of adjustments going on. That goes back to experience at some key spots to where your players are able to make adjustments."
Muschamp said the area his team can improve the most is to do a better job of disguising before the snap.
"When you play a team like (Baylor) you just have to be well tied together from front to back," Muschamp said. "From a disguise standpoint, I thought the second half of the Texas Tech game we didn't do a very good job of that.
"Tackling in space, we didn't do a very good job of that at times. On Saturday (against UCF) we didn't finish as well as we could have. Leveraging the ball, there's times when the ball doesn't get out with the Central Florida kid where it might get out with Kendall Wright.
"So we've got to do a nice job of leveraging the football, disguising better and playing with a better tempo. I just didn't feel like early on in the UCF game that we were playing with the same tempo or fire that we've played with most of the year."
10. Sergio Kindle had some thoughts ranging from "the Goon Squad" and Baylor to the defense's love of being on the field.
"Senior Capt. Lamar Houston made up Goon Squad, and that's what we roll with on the field," said Kindle, referring to the nickname Houston gave to the defense based on the movie "Goonies." "But the word 'Goon' is probably not one you want stamped on your defense from a politically correct standpoint. Goon is not good. It's like a hoodlum basically. So we only say it on the field."
Kindle said Baylor can't be overlooked because the Bears' roster is loaded with Texas high school talent.
"Those guys are just as talented as everyone else," Kindle said. "They just have more losses than wins. You should be motivated to play everyone, but you're always motivated to play an in-state team because they are always going to have great talent, and they're in-state."
Linebacker Keenan Robinson said players on the LOB love to play so much he doesn't care if the UT offense goes three and out. Kindle said he agrees.
"We love for the game to be put in our hands," Kindle said. "Not to downgrade the offense, but we just like being out there because it is fun making big plays and making big stops. And all of us feed off each other's energy. And what more could you ask for in a defense than that?"
BONUS BOOM: Muschamp was a player at Georgia when Greg Davis was hired as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach as a part of Jim Donnan's staff. I asked Muschamp what Davis was like as a coach at Georgia, and Muschamp had a good story.
"He was a lot younger," Muschamp said, laughing. "I remember Eric Zeier was my roommate. He was a quarterback there, and Eric had a great relationship with the previous offensive coordinator, a guy named Steve Ensminger. Eric was very disappointed when Steve left, I think to go to Texas A&M.
"Greg came in and within a week won him over because he's a really good football coach and a really good person. They still maintain contact. In fact, we called Eric last week. Greg just won him over in about four or five days as far as his football knowledge and his development of the quarterback and the type of person he is. I know Eric thinks the world of him."
Muschamp said he gets much more out of talking to offensive coaches about what gives them problems from a defense. And he said his relationship with Davis has really helped him in game-planning.
"Over the years, I've learned a lot more from offensive coaches than I have defensive coaches just in terms of schematically what gives them issues," Muschamp said. "Greg and I and our offense have a great relationship.
"We're constantly sharing information and walking down to each other's rooms and asking is this going to give you problems? Is this going to be an issue? You stay up all night drawing something up, and if it's not going to be a big pickup issue for them, you move on. When they say it's a problem for them, it's good to know."
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