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January 6, 2013

Sooners have to get better up front for future success

ARLINGTON, Texas — The misery Oklahoma experienced Saturday night wasn’t scarring. It takes something unexpected to cause that kind of shock to the system.

Seeing Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel run from end to end of Cowboys Stadium wasn’t stunning, considering the Sooners’ troubles stopping the run this season.

The 41-13 loss to the Aggies in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic was simply a final exam in a subject OU had been flunking throughout the second half of the season.

“We’ve got to make improvements in all areas, run defense, pass defense, pressures, whatever we’re doing,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “But again, some of it, too, our players have got to make some improvements. We had guys in position a bunch of times today to make plays, and they didn’t make them. The schemes and that kind of stuff only goes so far. Bottom line, it comes down to when you get opportunities to execute, you got to execute.”

It was crystal clear Friday night that OU’s defensive line was overmatched by Texas A&M. Manziel had an endless amount of time to throw and holes big enough to drive a truck through. Defensive ends R.J. Washington and Chuka Ndulue and tackles David King, Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland didn’t get off blocks and never came close to collapsing the pocket.

It wasn’t an oddity.

OU had 25 sacks this season with defensive linemen registering just 15.5 of the them. More telling was the tackles for loss total. OU had 55 this season with defensive linemen grabbing 25 of them. The Sooners averaged 37.8 sacks per season and 102.2 tackles for loss per season from 2007-11.

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops hinted at the problem in the days leading up to the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners lack a down lineman that’s a consistent playmaker.

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