Oklahoma’s star-studded defense struggling
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma’s star-studded defense was expected to match its explosive offense this season.
Things haven’t turned out that way the past two games, and the Sooners were ripped for 469 yards in a 37-33 loss to TCU last Saturday. The defensive backs held a special meeting and put in extra practice time on Monday night to prepare for Saturday’s game against Texas.
“Just getting back to what we were doing at the beginning of the year,” cornerback Zack Sanchez said “We kind of got a little complacent. We’ve just got to get back to that mentality that anything can happen every week. It was good for us to get back and focus on the things we need to work on.”
The unit got off to a great start this season, shutting down Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Tennessee. The Sooners then surrendered 513 yards in a 45-33 win over West Virginia. After the rough outing against TCU, the Sooners dropped from fourth to 11th in the Top 25, and their chances of reaching the four-team playoff took a hit.
Oklahoma’s mistakes were numerous against the Horned Frogs. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin passed for 318 yards and ran for 77 against the Sooners, and his receivers either won battles or weren’t covered at all several times.
“That game was kind of like a wake-up call for us,” safety Quentin Hayes said.
Oklahoma’s defense is still dangerous. The Sooners have intercepted nine passes and have five fumble recoveries. Linebacker Eric Striker has 3.5 quarterback sacks, 3.5 hurries and 6.5 tackles for loss. Hayes has three sacks.
Cornerback Julian Wilson leads the way with seven pass breakups and Sanchez is among the nation’s leaders with four interceptions. The playmaking has allowed the Sooners to get away with giving up so many yards.
“I think they’ve got a really nice scheme that highlights their players,” Texas assistant coach Shawn Watson said. “They’ve obviously got good football players on that side of the ball, and they’ve got a really good scheme that highlights those guys. They built that defense to play against speed offenses and play in this league. It looks simple, but yet, it’s very well put together.”
Texas provides an opportunity for Oklahoma’s defense to get back on track. The Longhorns have struggled to move the ball since losing quarterback David Ash for good because of concussions. They rank ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 in scoring offense, ninth in passing offense, eighth in rushing offense and ninth in total offense.
The Longhorns still have hope. They remember rushing for 255 yards last year during a 36-20 upset win over the Sooners. Despite their struggles so far this season, they believe they can do it again.
“I’m always confident in this team,” Malcolm Brown, who ran for 120 yards against Oklahoma last year, said. “I know the type of players that we have, and just looking back on film, I mean, we’re always just kind of one person away from making a big play or one thing away from making a big play. If we can get those little details corrected, we can have some big plays on the offensive side of the ball.”
The Sooners are still angry about the way they were dominated last year and don’t expect a repeat.
“They came and punched us in the mouth,” Sanchez said. “It’s a bad taste in our mouth, still. We’ve got work to do this week.”
AP Sports Writer James Vertuno is Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.
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