By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN — The gauntlet Oklahoma’s defense has faced the last three games has been brutal. Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State — three straight teams that spread a defense from sideline to sideline, stretch them until they find a weak spot and run plays a blistering pace.
The numbers were ugly. The Sooners gave up 131 combined points and 1,692 yards in those three games. Somehow, OU won all three.
“There are a lot of issues in what we’re having here of late. Some of it’s scheme; some of it’s the talent you’re playing against,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “They’re exploiting some of the weaknesses of our defense, let’s put it that way.”
However, the run of having to prepare for video-game like offenses is finally over. The 12th-ranked Sooners (9-2, 7-1 Big 12) face TCU (7-4, 4-4) at 11 a.m., Saturday at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
OU middle linebacker Tom Wort noticed the Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 Conference in time of possession. It was like seeing a light at the end of a terrifying tunnel. Finally, the Sooners get to face a team that wants to run the ball and control the clock.
“It will be a little better, more suited for our defense,” Wort said. “They’ve got good wide receivers, too. They can still throw the ball. It’s going to be more about focusing on us and getting the little things corrected.”
What the Sooners must correct isn’t little. Baylor, West Virginia and OSU all gashed the Sooners running the ball. All three rushed for more than 200 yards with the Mountaineers going for 458.
Missed tackles were some of the problem. Having to match up with four-receiver sets didn’t help either. But the shear amount of plays the Sooners had to defend hurt as well.
TCU doesn’t typically do those things. It only ran 58 offensive plays in its 20-13 victory over Texas on Thanksgiving night. That’s about 20 less than OU’s faced the last three weeks. The Horned Frogs only threw the ball 10 times in that game.
It’s what has Stoops concerned. Stopping the run has been OU’s Achilles’ heel the last three games.
“As a defensive coordinator, and as a defense, you’ve got to be able to stop the run and feel good about your commitment to stop the run,” he said. “We’d been a little bit resistant to that. We’d been a little more pass conscience. We’re not good enough right now at both things. In this league, you’re gonna have to try to find a balance. Right now, we still haven’t found that balance in our defense to stop the run.”
Against TCU, the game, the Big 12 title and BCS bowl berth could very well ride on the Sooners plugging the holes from the last three games.
After three straight games of players sprinting on and off the field and trying to quickly line up before the ball is snapped, the Sooners ought to be a little more comfortable with what they’ll face on Saturday.
“We still have a chance to prove we can play a little defense around here,” defensive end David King said.