NORMAN — There isn’t a constant thump of someone punching a heavy bag. There isn’t the ping from a bell. The temperature in the locker room is well under 100 degrees. Nonetheless, the words coming from Oklahoma’s locker room sound like they’re straight out of a boxing gym.
“It was a 15-round fight,” defensive end David King said about the Texas game, “and we won 14 and a half rounds.”
“Each week is a fight,” safety Javon Harris said. “It’s a fight to keep playing every team as hard as we can.”
It’s not by coincidence the boxing metaphors are flowing out of players. OU’s coaching staff has thrown them around like a flurry of punches. They’ve shown players clips of classic fights for one reason.
“Just trying to have a fighter’s mentality all the time,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.
Over the last two games, the message seems to have landed like a haymaker. The Sooners have been beating teams up in ways they haven’t in years.
The Sooners ran for 343 yards against Texas, but it wasn’t through trickery or a couple big reverses. Just about all of those runs came with two running backs in the backfield and running straight at the Longhorns. It didn’t produce the same rushing numbers, but OU went after Texas Tech in the same manner two weeks ago.
It’s a bruising, but very effective style.
With its starters on the field, OU’s defense hasn’t given up a touchdown since the opening drive of the Texas Tech game. It hasn’t been a matter of having a scheme offensive coordinators can’t figure out.
In fact, Kansas coach Charlie Weis, who will make his first visit to Owen Field on Saturday, said the Sooner defense is the exact opposite.
“It’s interesting to be able to watch a team that just lines up and plays. So many different defenses are gadgets and gimmicks and pressure on every down and stunts. These guys just line up and try to rough you up,” he said. “… They don’t try to beat you with trickery and deceit. They just line up and try to smash in the mouth. It’s old-fashioned defense, and they’re really good at it.”
OU had games where it pummeled teams defensively last season. Its wins over Florida State, Kansas State and Iowa were bruising affairs. The difference is the Sooners have shown the ability to do it against spread offenses this season.
Those weren’t things that anyone was saying about OU or any team in the Big 12 Conference in September or for the last couple seasons. The league’s reputation was soft. The ridiculous offensive numbers were part of it.
How the league is viewed probably won’t change, but the perception of the Sooners has been altered. They suddenly look like a team that’s more than capable of taking a shot and giving one right back.
“You better have that mentality of when you get hit, you come back. When you get knocked down, you get right back up. We’ve been talking a lot about that,” receiver coach Jay Norvell said. “This conference is gonna be a dogfight every week.”
The Sooners have embraced that mentality.
John ShinnFollow me @email@example.com