No. 12 Oklahoma’s defense struggling during Big 12 play
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — For a while, it seemed that Oklahoma had cured its defensive ills and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was off the hot seat.
The Sooners blew through the non-conference schedule, highlighted by a 31-16 win at No. 2 Ohio State. Oklahoma ranked among the national leaders in scoring and total defense heading into the Big 12 slate.
Two games into the conference schedule, all the old questions are back. The Sooners escaped struggling Baylor with a 49-41 win, then fell apart in the second half of a 38-31 loss to Iowa State on Saturday. The 12th-ranked Sooners hope to get back on track Saturday against Texas in Dallas.
“Defensively, I thought we had some of these things corrected, and it’s not the way it is right now,” Stoops said after the Iowa State game. “You’ve got to find ways to cover people and make plays or it’s just going to keep snowballing.”
At least Stoops doesn’t have to worry about his job security. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said making a change is not an option.
“No, that’s not on the table,” Riley said. “We have a really good defensive staff, and that’s who we’re going to have.”
Oklahoma gave up 631 yards to Baylor, then 449 against Iowa State, with much of the damage coming in a 25-point second half for the Cyclones.
Oklahoma linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo said the Sooners have gotten lazy. He said there have been with issues with execution and effort, and he’s not sure why.
“To be honest, I couldn’t put my finger on it,” he said. “I just know what we need to do better. I saw what we did this weekend and I know that’s not the type of football that we want to play. We just have to fix that.”
Riley said Oklahoma’s high expectations sometimes lead to letdowns when the Sooners don’t dominate early.
“Everybody tells us we’re supposed to beat Baylor and Iowa State by 60, and then when it’s not happening at half, there’s an air of disappointment a little bit,” he said. “I think that’s the whole thing we’re talking about. We’ve got to get past that.”
The Longhorns have been a thorn in Oklahoma’s side the past four years. Oklahoma has been a solid favorite each year, but the Sooners have lost twice and have two five-point wins.
Okoronkwo said the fact that the next opponent is Texas matters.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Okoronkwo said. “We lost. We have to bounce back. Emotions are going to be high. Everybody wants to right what we did last weekend.”
Texas’ offense will be a bit of a mystery. Texas coach Tom Herman said Monday that he will not name a starting quarterback between Shane Buchele and Sam Ehlinger. Buchele has been slightly more effective as a passer, while Ehlinger has been a better runner. Buchele has been out with a bruised throwing shoulder.
“It doesn’t do me any good to tell you (the media), even if I did know, because I kind of like having the defense have to prepare for two,” Herman said. “I doubt if you are going to hear anything from me during the course of the week. I don’t know what good it does me to tell Mike Stoops and Lincoln Riley what I think of my quarterback situation.”
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .