Patch­ing up por­ous run de­fense the first or­der of busi­ness

Or­lando wants to make foes one-di­men­sional again

San Antonio Express-News - - SPORTS - 6:30 p.m. to­day, Fox

LUB­BOCK — In most cases, scor­ing 76 points over two Satur­days would be good enough for a cou­ple of wins.

For 19th-ranked Texas (6-3, 4-2 Big 12), all those points have re­sulted only in to pair of gut-wrench­ing losses and a tum­ble from its perch atop the Big 12.

Five touch­downs weren’t enough to beat Ok­la­homa State in Still­wa­ter. An­other hand­ful of touch­downs plus a pair of field goals still left Texas one point shy of 13th-ranked West Vir­ginia last week­end at Royal-Me­mo­rial Sta­dium.

Todd Or­lando’s de­fense has been turned into a well-worn punch­ing bag over the last two weeks.

Ok­la­homa State put up 38 points and to­taled 502 yards in its 38-35 win. Not to be out­done, West Vir­ginia went for 42 and 578, re­spec­tively, capped by a game-win­ning two­point con­ver­sion with 16 sec­onds re­main­ing.

Those per­for­mances have pushed Or­lando and his group to do some soul-search­ing ahead of Satur­day’s game at Jones AT&T Sta­dium against Texas Tech (5-4, 3-3) and its ex­plo­sive Air Raid of­fense.

“The way that we have to do it is go back to prac­tice habits,” Or­lando said. “Go back to look­ing our­selves in the mir­ror, me es­pe­cially, and say­ing, ‘We have to get this fixed.’ That’s coach­ing. The play­ers, these guys care about foot­ball, and we’ve got to work like crazy to get this right.”

Or­lando sin­gled out a por­ous run de­fense as the main cul­prit in UT’s falloff, though in truth the team has strug­gled in ev­ery key facet.

But strip­ping a team of its abil­ity to run is like strip­ping a boxer of the use of an arm — he can still flail with the free limb, but the op­po­nent knows what’s com­ing and where it’s com­ing from. Texas, which held No. 22 USC to mi­nus-5 rush­ing yards in an ear­lier win, has lost that abil­ity to hand­i­cap op­pos­ing of­fenses.

Whether it has been a loss of gap in­tegrity or a frus­trat­ing in­abil­ity to sim­ply wrap up the ball car­rier be­fore he reaches the sec­ond level, Or­lando’s group has floun­dered as a run-stop­ping unit.

“The main thing for us right now is our in­abil­ity to

stop the run,” Or­lando said. “That to me is my job, the coach­ing part of it. Be gap sound, phys­i­cal­ity. When you look at the last two weeks and you say to your­self, ‘What is hap­pen­ing here?’ in the past we’ve made peo­ple one-di­men­sional. When you don’t make peo­ple one-di­men­sional and they can run the foot­ball, that opens ev­ery­thing else.”

Texas Tech will be with­out quar­ter­back Alan Bow­man, who was dis­charged from the hos­pi­tal Wed­nes­day fol­low­ing a four-day stay to be eval­u­ated for a “re­cur­rence of a par­tially col­lapsed lung.” Given the sever­ity of Bow­man’s in­jury, coach Kliff Kings­bury will stick with Jett Duf­fey, who threw

for 139 yards and ac­counted for three TDs in the sec­ond half of last Satur­day’s near up­set of Ok­la­homa.

Texas will play more nickel de­fense against Duf­fey, though the orig­i­nal game plan for slow­ing Kings­bury’s of­fense will re­main largely in­tact. Like Bow­man, Duf­fey will have a wealth of op­tions in the pass­ing game, in­clud­ing An­toine Wes­ley, the na­tion’s sec­ond-lead­ing re­ceiver with 1,176 yards, and Ja’Deion High (615 yards).

“The quar­ter­back and re­ceivers get a lot of the pub­lic­ity,” coach Tom Her­man said. “But you bet­ter be able to stop the run or you’re go­ing to bleed a slow death.”

As good as Tech’s of­fense is, its de­fense is a scar­let sieve, rank­ing 88th in scor­ing

de­fense, 110th in to­tal de­fense and 124th in pass­ing yards al­lowed.

Even with re­ceiver Collin John­son (knee) dinged up, Texas quar­ter­back Sam Eh­linger should post gaudy num­bers.

“You can’t play good de­fense if you’re not con­fi­dent,” Her­man said. “They know what they’re ca­pa­ble of. We’ve seen it, it’s not the­ory. We’ve played re­ally good de­fense this sea­son with these play­ers. They know we’ve got to tighten up some de­tails and tighten up some screws here and there, but when­ever you don’t play well the best medicine is to go out and play well.”

Tim Warner / Getty Im­ages

End Breckyn Hager, right, is ex­pected to take the field to­day in Lub­bock for a strug­gling Texas de­fense de­spite be­ing on the mend from a dis­lo­cated ra­dius.

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