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Londhorns' D missing chances

AUSTIN, Texas -- Mixed in all the corrections, teachings and reviews following the Oklahoma State game, Manny Diaz did offer up something different to his Texas defense.

"Congratulations, we scored twice on defense," the defensive coordinator told his players.

The problem was they scored twice on the same play and had to take the lesser point value -- a two-point safety. That safety nullified an interception return for a touchdown by safety Blake Gideon.

But both plays brought home a salient point -- the opportunities are there for Texas to create more turnovers and score more points on defense.

"We feel like we've missed too many opportunities on our turnovers," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

Eight of the Longhorns' 13 turnovers this season came in two games -- UCLA and Iowa State. All six of their interceptions came in the first four weeks. That's despite the fact Oklahoma and Oklahoma State attempted 91 passes in the last two games.

No one has capitalized on those chances.

"Get our hands on the ball," Diaz has implored his defense. "Finish the plays. Make the plays that win us the football game. Step in front of it. Pick it off."

To aid the players in getting a sense of what he is talking about, Diaz had a film reel made of all the missed opportunities Texas has had when it comes to turnovers.

"You can see that they are right there," sophomore cornerback Carrington Byndom said. "If we make certain plays, the outcome of the game will be different."

Byndom should know. He stretched out and just missed an interception against Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden down the Texas sideline in the first half. With the game close at that point, it could have changed the momentum in Texas' favor.

It certainly would have changed Diaz's mood as he watched the Missouri-Oklahoma State game last weekend. Weeden threw a pick in that game. The announcers on TV said it was the first he had thrown since the third week of the season.

"I'm sitting there thinking, 'No it's not. He threw two against us,' " Diaz said.

Diaz also has to walk a thin line when it comes to continually harping to his players about turnovers. At some point the players' innate skill has to take over.

"You don't want to become tight and tense and do more than what you have to do," he said. "Make plays. Trust your technique. Do your job. Go full speed. When you have the opportunity to make it, make the play."

That message is not just going to the defensive backs. Texas' pressure has been pillow-soft the past couple of weeks. A comfortable pocket makes for pinpoint passers.

The coaches think that more want and desire will help the front four as well as the back seven.

"We've sold the guys on that there is urgency," Brown said. "You're getting close, so get there. Get a better jump. Get on the edge. Fight just a little bit more to affect the plays instead of just getting close to them. We took all these plays out and showed them how many times they were just so close."

Close, of course, doesn't count. Results do. If nothing else the players seem to have a firm grasp on that.

"Whenever the turnovers do start coming, they're going to come in bunches, we know," Gideon said.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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