Texas defense emerges as dominant group for No. 4 Longhorns after 2 games

After a routine win over Rice to start the season, No. 4 Texas coach Steve Sarkisian noted that little has been said about the quality of his defense.

A road win at No. 10 Alabama should change the conversation.

(Sark’s goals for Texas: “Championship teams continue to improve”)

The Longhorns dominated at times against the Crimson Tide as they chased, sacked and intercepted Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe all night in a 34-24 declaration victory. Texas had five sacks, two interceptions and nine total tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The Longhorns held Alabama to 107 rushing yards.

Is it time to say Texas is back?

“Our speed is one of our advantages,” Sargsyan said Monday. “I thought we were very disruptive from the start. … Our ability to create chaos in the backfield was tremendous.”

Chaos indeed. Texas never let Milroe get comfortable, and no Alabama running back passed for more than 45 yards.

Texas senior defensive back Ryan Watts, who transferred from Ohio State ahead of the 2022 season, said the Longhorns have the potential to be a top-five defense in the country this season.

“The ceiling is high,” Watts said. “We play fast. A year ago, two years ago, we would have made a lot of mistakes.”

Watts remembers it well. He critically missed a late sack during Alabama’s drive to a game-winning field goal last season in an otherwise superb game. Watts and his teammates have bounced back from their few miscues against Alabama this year.

A long Alabama touchdown pass in the third quarter briefly ceded the lead. Texas and quarterback Quinn Ewers quickly responded with a three-play drive to keep a touchdown going quickly.

Then came the coup de grace put in place by the defense. Alabama’s first play after the Texas touchdown was a pass intercepted by Longhorns linebacker Jerrin Thompson. Texas punched into the end zone one play later and was in complete control.

Alabama’s final possession ended when Milroe was sacked by freshman linebacker Anthony Hill. The Longhorns then played out the final seven minutes before celebrating with their fans who had traveled to Tuscaloosa.

No. 11 Texas STUNS No. 3 Alabama: the Longhorns are BACK

No. 11 Texas STUNS No. 3 Alabama: the Longhorns are BACK

Last season, Texas had former TCU head coach Gary Patterson, considered a defensive guru, on staff as a special assistant to the head coach. Patterson is no longer on staff, leaving all the credit for the strong start to defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, whom Sarkisian hired away from Washington in 2021.

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Texas held its first two opponents to fewer than 400 total yards. The Longhorns have four interceptions by four different players and four sacks of emerging stars like Hill, one of the top recruits in the country, and 6-foot-7 sophomore Ethan Burke, who has only played football in high school and had to convince himself to give up his first love, lacrosse, to go to college.

“We have a lot of young, hungry kids on this team,” Burke said. “To be a part of it, it’s exciting.”

Associated Press reporting.

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