Tahlequah Daily Press

OU Sports

November 13, 2012

No. 13 OU trying to solve weak link: rush defense

NORMAN — Ask one Stoops brother and he'll tell you he loves that Oklahoma gave up over 200 yards rushing for a fourth time this season, as long as the end result was a victory.

Ask another and he'll tell you the performance was unacceptable and things need to be corrected right away with a road game against West Virginia's high-scoring offense coming up on Saturday.

The only common ground is that coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, his brother, both want the 13th-ranked Sooners (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) to be better.

"We have to stop the run to be a good defense," defensive tackle Casey Walker said Monday, leaving no wiggle room. "The front four has to be solid. It has to be. That's imperative."

For an ex-defensive coordinator who has always preached stopping the run first, Bob Stoops has been uncommonly accepting of the season-worst 251 yards rushing his team allowed in a 42-34 victory over Baylor on Saturday night. The reason: The Bears came in leading the nation in passing and were held to a season-low 172 yards — 220 below their average.

"That's no consolation," his brother countered. "We want to and we need to play better defense if we want to go the places we want to go."

At his weekly news conference on Monday, Bob Stoops took a small step back from his postgame proclamation in support of the defense: "I absolutely love it." Looking back at the film, he found too many missed tackles — something he hadn't seen as a problem in previous games.

"To a degree, we'll make some adjustments and again, hopefully make some adjustments on some of the run game," Bob Stoops said.

He didn't expect West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) to pose the same issues as Baylor, which frequently spreads receivers within a few steps of both sidelines and ran read option plays with quarterback Nick Florence.

Yet that's not the only run game that has posed the Sooners problems. Kansas State and Notre Dame also eclipsed 200 yards rushing while beating Oklahoma, and UTEP had 207 yards rushing in the opener that was a three-point game in the fourth quarter.

"Everybody's attack is different. Baylor's strategy to work you is a little bit different than theirs, but you've still got speedy receivers, you've still got an excellent quarterback. You don't have as much of the quarterback run game, that kind of thing," Bob Stoops said.

"Everybody has their way that they like to try and move the football."

Mike Stoops saw it differently, calling the tackling "atrocious" and the overall run defense "disappointing" because the Sooners showed vulnerability both inside and outside the tackles.

"I think they exposed some weaknesses in our defense, and we've got to address them. All the teams we play can do all of the things they did," he said. "You open up Pandora's Box."

Entering a stretch when they'll play some of the Big 12's most potent passing attacks, Oklahoma frequently used a package with seven defensive backs against Baylor, which could have led to the imbalance in stopping the pass while yielding to the run.

"Good football teams don't miss tackles," Walker said. "It's rare to see a football team that wins with as many missed tackles. You have to correct that quickly because at the end of the day, it'll catch back up with you and that's how you lose a ballgame.

"It was good that we won the game but defensively, the performance could have been better. We've played better."

Behind quarterback Geno Smith, West Virginia ranks fifth in the nation in passing (347.6 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (40 points per game) but has been at its best when allowed to run the ball. The Mountaineers averaged 164 yards rushing during a five-game winning streak to start the season and just 93.5 during their current five game losing skid, with three straight games in double figures.

"That's No. 1. Stop the run," Walker said. "We harp that every week. We don't even look at the pass. In the defensive tackles' film room, we don't even look at the pass. We don't look at drop-backs or nothing. It's all run.

"If you stop the run, the pass rush, that's just muscle memory."

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