NORMAN — There was a master plan when Oklahoma redesigned its defense last spring. The ultimate goal was to stop everything it faced, but the heavy emphasis was on the spread offenses it would face in the Big 12 Conference.
Last Saturday’s 38-30 victory over then 10th-ranked Texas Tech was an early test of how well the Sooners’ rebuilding job has been.
Ultimately, it was a success because OU won the game. But giving up 460 yards and 23 points in the second half left a lot to be desired.
“They bailed us out in the second half,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said of OU’s offense. “We hung in there the first half. When you’re playing good, winning games like this, you’re not going to win one-sided games. It’s impossible. Special teams, offense, defense, you need to play well in all three phases. I thought we carried each other throughout parts of that game, and that’s really what you have to do because there is going to be some adversity.”
But what OU will face Thursday night in Waco, Texas, is much more troublesome. As prolific as the Red Raiders can be they tend to make themselves one-dimensional. They only averaged 124.3 yards, which is 106th in the country.
Baylor is college football’s highest scoring team because it will run the ball — and do it very effectively. The Bears have piled up 2,108 yards and 34 rushing touchdowns on the ground through just seven games.
Stopping the run is where the Sooners had serious issues last season, allowing 192.3 yards per game, and allowing over 300 in two of the last four games.
OU’s ability to win Thursday could very well come down to whether or not it can make the Bears one-dimensional. Easier said than done.
“It’s hard to stop them,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “There’s so much speed in the way they space you out. A lot of times, it isn’t real complicated. It’s being able to match up and run with them and cover them and eliminate so many big plays.”
The only team that’s really been able to do that this season is Kansas State. It still lost 35-25 in its Oct. 10 meeting with the Bears, but its the only team to stay within 31 points of them all season.
Holding Baylor to 114 rushing yards on 37 attempts gave Kansas State a chance.
OU would love to copy that game plan. If it could hold Baylor to 35 points, it would like its chances of getting out of Waco with a victory.
It will be a game where every phase of the Sooners’ team will be tested — offense, defense and special teams. But it’s the defense that will truly be under the brightest spotlight.
The numbers all say OU’s defense has greatly improved this season. It’s giving up less points, less yards and coming up with more turnovers.
But it’s about to face the explosive two-dimensional offense that tended to rip it to shreds last season.
“We’re going to have our hands full trying to stop them, so it will be fun,” OU safety Gabe Lynn said.
In six days, the Sooners will find out just where they truly are.
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