Tahlequah Daily Press

OU Sports

November 20, 2012

Sooners eager to firm up defense ahead of Bedlam

NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive end David King knew what was coming Monday, even before watching film of the Sooners’ wild 50-49 win at West Virginia.

The Sooners had a poor defensive outing of historical proportions and it took a record-setting performance — including a last-minute touchdown drive — by quarterback Landry Jones to bail them out. The weekly defensive film session figured to be somewhat unpleasant.

“There will be some words said,” King said. “You have to take it as part of football. You’re going to be coached. You have to deal with it.”

What No. 14 Oklahoma (8-2, 6-1 Big 12) will have to deal with on Saturday will be an Oklahoma State squad that uses the same offensive philosophy as West Virginia — remember, Dana Holgorsen was the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator for a year before becoming West Virginia’s head coach.

No. 22 Oklahoma State (7-3, 5-2) has the conference’s top running back in Joseph Randle and ranks third in the Bowl Subdivision in total offense at 553.7 yards per game. Seeing as how the Sooners gave up 344 rushing yards to West Virginia’s receiver-turned-running back, Tavon Austin, there is cause for concern in the Oklahoma camp entering the annual Bedlam showdown.

“It starts with the front seven,” King said. “I think a couple of times last week, we were caught with seven (defensive backs) on the field and it’s kind of hard to play the run. Still, guys have to make plays and guys have to step up. Big-time players make big-time plays on a stage like that. It’s something we have to fix. Our pass defense has been pretty good all year. Our run defense hasn’t been as stout as our pass defense and it’s something we have to pick up these last two weeks, especially with OSU coming in here on Saturday.”

Austin broke the previous opponent rushing record against Oklahoma — 235 yards by Darren Sproles of Kansas State in the 2003 Big 12 title game — by 109 yards. Austin’s 572 all-purpose yards against the Sooners was six shy of the FBS record, held by Emmitt White of Utah State. West Virginia’s Steadman Bailey also caught four touchdown passes, joining Fred Biletnikoff of Florida State (who did so in the 1964 Gator Bowl) as the only receivers ever to do that against Oklahoma.

The Mountaineers finished with 778 yards of offense. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops offered another eye-catching number as a sort of explanation — 20 missed tackles by the Sooners.

“We haven’t had that in a long, long time,” Stoops said, saying Austin should receive credit “for making people miss him. . He did an excellent job.” But Stoops said the Sooners — who often used the seven defensive backs in a scheme to limit West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith — also helped Austin.

“I feel like we could tackle better in some instances,” Stoops said. “Again, structurally in what we’re asking our guys to do, we’ll need to make some adjustments and will to hopefully defend the run better. That will be a key issue, obviously, this coming week.”

Stoops declined to reveal what changes the Sooners were considering — “That wouldn’t be very wise of me,” he said — but he did say that poor tackling hasn’t been an issue for his team for much of the season. He defended free safety Tony Jefferson, who took much of the blame for what happened at West Virginia.

“We’re asking them a little bit too much sometimes to make some tackles in some areas where it’s pretty difficult,” Stoops said of his defensive backs. “So that’s where we’ve got to make some adjustments, in how we’re playing some of our guys up front in front of them, too. We’ve got our hand in it as coaches, too, to try and make some adjustments to give those guys a fair opportunity, too.

“He’s being a little too hard on himself. It’s a little bit of, there are some plays he probably could of made, but there are some, too, that are pretty tough with the guys we had out there.”

On the positive side for the Sooners, they also had a record-setting offensive outing. Jones completed 38 of 51 passes for a school-record 554 yards and he tied his own school mark by throwing six touchdown passes, the last to Kenny Stills with 24 seconds left.

Jones, named Monday as the Big 12’s offensive player of the week, has 15,624 career passing yards and needs 170 more to pass Graham Harrell of Texas Tech as the Big 12’s leader in that category. King praised Jones and the Oklahoma offense for making sure the Sooners won.

“At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing, walking out of that stadium with a win instead of a loss,” King said. “We’d be sitting here at 7-3 instead of 8-2. I’m proud of the way we kept fighting all year. Last year when we had the same situation (against Baylor), we didn’t come out in the winning end of it. This year, we found a way to win. Our offense just kept coming and bailed us out of the game and scored one more point and made one more play.”

Notes: Stoops says offensive lineman Daryl Williams is lost for the rest of the season because of a knee injury. Williams suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament against West Virginia, but Stoops says he should be able to return for the Sooners’ bowl game. Stoops says Oklahoma will decide during the week how to juggle the lineup to account for Williams’ absence.

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