The Texas Longhorns noticed an alarming trend when they watched the game film of last week's 63-21 loss to Oklahoma: a lack of effort on defense at times.
UT allowed season-highs in points, total yards (677), rushing yards (343) and first downs (30) against the Sooners.
"Three or four guys were really playing hard and some guys were not playing hard," senior safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "It's just causing a cancer on the team because if we're ever going to be anything defense, everybody has to play hard. Everybody needs to want to make the play every down and it's not like that right now. People are looking for people to make plays."
But the Oklahoma game was not the first contest in which Texas struggled defensively.
The Longhorns rank 103rd in rushing defense in the FBS, allowing more than 209 rushing yards per game on average. Texas (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) has surrendered 12 rushing touchdowns and its opponents average more than five yards per carry. UT is 99th in total defense, giving up nearly 450 yards per game.
"The problem is we are too careful on defense," senior defensive end Alex Okafor said. "We're not throwing our bodies around. We're expecting someone else to make the play. And that all comes from practice, from taking plays off, from effort and all that. We have to change that."
So how does that change before Saturday's matchup against Baylor ?
"You have to throw your body around in practice like you would in a game and it has to become second nature for the effort to be there," Okafor said. "Tackling is not the issue, effort is. Effort and relentlessness, we don't have that right now."
When asked why the Longhorns have shown poor effort at times this season, Okafor and Vaccaro couldn't pinpoint a reason.
"Honestly, I really don't know because I feel like that's the mentality of the individual player," Vaccaro said. "It's your decision what kind of a player you want to be. I don't know why somebody wouldn't play hard, I don't get it."
Vaccaro doesn't think speeches or team meetings will cure the Longhorns' defensive woes. He said it has to "come from within."
"If we're going to turn this defense around, we have to come together and play like we love the person next to us," Vaccaro said. "We're not playing like that, but we should be."
By Austin Laymance/Special to the Star-Telegram