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November 21, 2012

Derailed by big rushing attacks, Sooner defense tries to get back on track

NORMAN — The sky was still where it should be, but everything else appeared to plummet on top of Oklahoma’s defense in the last two weeks.

The 14th-ranked Sooners (8-2, 6-1 Big 12) will bring a three-game winning streak into Saturday’s Bedlam meeting with No. 22 Oklahoma State (7-3, 5-2) at Owen Field. They’ll bring another streak, more difficult to take, as well. They’ve allowed 710 rushing yards in the last two games against Baylor and West Virginia.

The appearance that OU’s defense is hemorrhaging leaves many wondering if major surgery is needed.

In some ways, yes.

Both the Mountaineers and Bears exploited something the Sooners gave them. Both teams often spread the field with at least four wide receivers and sometimes five. OU’s counteraction has been to play seven defensive backs against that kind of personnel.

“In the end, some of what teams are doing makes it difficult to cover like you need to and still support the run. Obviously, we’re still working through that,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.

The progress better come quickly. If there are gaping holes on Saturday, the Cowboys will run right through them.

Statistically, OSU is the best rushing team the Sooners will face this season.

On thing that will likely change is the seven-defensive back personnel will stay on the sideline unless there’s a third-and-long situation.

“We were caught with seven DBs on the field and it’s kind of hard to play the run,” defensive end David King said. “Still, guys have to make plays and guys have to step up.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has taken the blame for the last two weeks. After OU escaped West Virginia by the skin of its teeth, he thought he’d put his unit in some tough spots.

He hasn’t exactly said what needs to change against the Cowboys, other than to tackle better.

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