Sept. 20, 2009
Ryan Graney, Texas Media Relations
In Saturday night’s Big 12 Conference opener, the Texas football team defeated Texas Tech, 34-24, and in the process, the Longhorns’ defense held the Red Raiders to just over half of their previous scoring average.
With such a strong performance against a high-powered offense, there were plenty of stars on the defensive side of the ball. One of those who shined brightly was sophomore outside linebacker Emmanuel Acho.
Acho helped the Longhorns keep the Texas Tech offense out of the end zone in the first half, which is the first time a defense has done so against Texas Tech in 19 games. He also tallied four tackles, including two for loss to go along with two forced fumbles.
Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp came away pleased with the sophomore’s performance.
“I thought Emmanuel played really well,” Muschamp said. “We really emphasized stripping the football, and he had a couple opportunities to get the ball on the ground. He tackled well in space.”
The Dallas native not only made an impression on the coaches, but on his teammates as well. Senior linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy appreciated Acho’s excellent play against the Red Raiders.
“He played great,” Muckelroy said. “He stepped up when we needed him to and made big plays. That’s all you can ask for from a teammate really.”
This offseason, Muschamp expressed a hope the defense would force at least three turnovers per game. Against Texas Tech, it did exactly that. Acho understands the impact forcing turnovers can have on a game and can see his practice in that area paying off.
“Coach Muschamp daily emphasizes being a ball hawk and forcing turnovers, forcing fumbles, and recovering fumbles,” Acho said. “With his emphasis on that in and out of practice, it has become a habit, and in the game it’s much easier to do.”
Success hasn’t always come easily for Acho. After a strong start to his freshman campaign, he injured his knee during the season’s stretch run. Instead of allowing the setback to hinder his development as a player, Acho’s character became evident as he fought his way back into an important role on the Longhorns defense.
“We decided to play him as a true freshman last year, and unfortunately he hurt his knee in the season and that set him back a little bit as far as playing time and things were concerned,” Muschamp said. “But, he has approached the things we needed him to work on as a player, and I think he’s done an outstanding job off the field. His strength level, his speed and his quickness have all improved. He’s a mature young man that’s been raised right, and he’s got a lot of upside as a player.”
Although he has noticed himself improve greatly since last season, Acho is not complacent with his progress. The second-year linebacker wants to maintain his growth into a better linebacker.
“I’m starting to become a smarter player and a more physical player at the point of attack,” Acho said. “I’m trying to see the play before it happens, and understand different concepts and different schemes as to what the offense will want to run on this play before they snap the ball. I’m just hoping to continue to improve.”
In his second season, Acho is starting to reap the rewards of his hard work and dedication. The sophomore understands that in order to continue improving, he needs to do his part to progress each day.
“Given the more chances being able to play, I’m just trying to capitalize on each and every opportunity,” Acho said. “Coach Muschamp always says in practice, ‘Each day you either get better or worse,’ and each day I try to go out there and get better, and now it’s starting to reflect on the game field.”