The Norman Transcript

Sports

September 3, 2013

Sooners hoping to avoid repeat of defensive collapse against West Virginia

NORMAN — Even though Oklahoma is coming off its first shutout in two and a half seasons, it’s still impossible to forget what happened nine months ago in Morgantown, W.Va.

The Sooners’ first-ever trip to face the Mountaineers ended with a 50-49 victory, but it will likely always be remembered for their defensive futility.

Giving up 778 yards of total offense, allowing Tavon Austin, a wide receiver, to rush for more than 300 yards and doing little to stop West Virginia from scoring three fourth-quarter touchdown drives that took five plays or less left a scar impossible to ignore.

No one has forgotten it.

“We gave up nearly 800,” OU nickelback Julian Wilson said Monday. “… That was a hard thing to swallow.”

But one thing that night full of defensive lowlights did was serve up undeniable proof that OU had to change its defense in 2013. What the Sooners tried to do against the Mountaineers simply wasn’t sustainable, and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops knew it.

“We just didn’t put our players in a good enough position as a coach to make plays and that’s frustrating. It was just a long and difficult night,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Between that night and what happened in the bowl game, it obviously convinced us that we needed to adjust our defense, be more flexible and be more diverse and put more pressure on the quarterback.”

The Sooners struggled to do those things last season. They kept things simple, hoping that would allow everyone to be on the same page against the bevy of up-tempo spread offenses it would face throughout the season.

At least early in the year, it worked. But that meeting with West Virginia was in the middle of November. By then, all the plays had been run and the tendencies had long been exposed. OU’s simplicity was exploited.

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