By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – Defense carried Oklahoma to its 20-17 victory over TCU Saturday night, but the defense paid a price for it.
OU coach Bob Stoops confirmed Sunday that senior linebacker Corey Nelson suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the second half. He will have surgery Tuesday and will likely miss the rest of the season.
Losing Nelson is a massive wallop for the 12th-ranked Sooners (5-0, 2-0 Big 12).
The senior made 27 tackles (13 solo), along with a 24-yard interception return TD, four pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and a sack through the first five games of the year.
However, Nelson’s production went beyond tackles. He was the emotional leader of the defense. Replacing that aspect of what he brought to the table is going to be very difficult.
TCU scored both of its touchdowns after Nelson went to the bench Saturday night.
True freshman Dominique Alexander went in for Nelson. He’s made 10 tackles this season and has been the Sooners’ weakside linebacker when it has played four linebackers.
None of OU’s coaches spoke to reporters Sunday. Saturday night, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops obviously felt good about the way his group, which leads the Big 12 Conference in scoring defense at 13.0 points per game, has played through five games.
“I think that’s the thing that jumps out at me is that there are a lot of guys playing well, and I don’t think you can really pinpoint one guy. I just think it’s a collective effort, and when you have collective efforts, I think that produces promising results,” he said. “That to me seems to be the key to our success right now. We’ve got three or four impact players, but the rest of our guys are playing impact football. We don’t have any glaring weaknesses, and that’s a good place to be.”
But Nelson was one of those impact players. Getting him a bigger role within the defense had been a goal since the 2012 season ended.
Nelson did not come off the field whether OU was facing an offense with five wide receivers or two tight ends and three running backs.
What OU does in his absence will be something it figures out as it crafts the game plan for what comes next: the Red River Rivalry against Texas (3-2, 2-0) at 11 a.m., Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.