By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
There was no sigh of relief for Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops Saturday night. Even though his group held Kansas to 67 yards in the final three quarters of Saturday’s 35-19 victory, that first quarter was still fresh on his mind.
Kansas copied a game plan Texas laid out the previous week and ran the ball down the Sooners’ throat in the first quarter. Much like what happened in the Cotton Bowl a week earlier, the Sooners needed time to adjust.
“We’re not fitting and positioning the run game the way it needs to be positioned. When you don’t position it right, they’re gonna get yards,” he said. “It’s what’s not good with us right now. They’re creating these unbalanced formations and there’s some movement that has to take place within your defense to get guys in position and we’re not in position.
Starting in the middle of the second quarter we adjusted better. Guys had to see what they were doing to us.”
Perhaps the adjustment period wouldn’t be as long if linebacker Corey Nelson were still on the field. But that’s not an option. Nelson’s season ended with the pectoral surgery he underwent last week.
What happened in the second half showed the problem wasn’t physical — at least against Kansas. OU’s defense dominated the final 45 minutes. The only touchdown it gave up was on a 6-yard run set up by a blocked punt.
But the Sooners are about to face some much more explosive teams. They face No. 10 Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Owen Field. No. 5 Baylor follows Nov. 7 in Waco, Texas.
Those teams have the Big 12’s best offenses. Struggle for a quarter against either and the gap gets too big to overcome.
OU’s struggles over the last two weeks effectively advertise that stopping the run is the defense’s Achilles’ heel.
The last two teams OU has faced have combined for 440 rushing yards.
“They are going to keep coming and keep doing it until we stop every team. Every team is going to do it. We have to stop it. I’m sure they will (run). It’s what teams have been successful with so far,” OU linebacker Eric Striker said. “We have to play and we have to get tough and we have to know what we have to do.”
It’s not a good feeling to have. The Sooners have a chance to seize control of the Big 12 Conference race the next two weeks. But it’s defense has to play a lot better from the opening snap. Teams that need to settle in tend to settle into the middle of pack instead of leading it.
Until something changes OU’s defensive coordinator is going to have an uneasy hunch.
“Obviously, we’re not repping it enough or we’re not communicating it enough or we’re not recognizing things quick enough. That leads to them being able to run the ball on us. That’s a very uncomfortable feeling,” Mike Stoops said. “We have young guys in there, but they’re things we prepare them for throughout the course of the week. We just have recognize things better.”