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October 1, 2012
HD: OU defense must find another gear
Heading into the 2012 season the Oklahoma defense had recorded at least one interception in 73% of its games dating back to 1999 and in those 176 games a single turnover had been forced 86% of the time.
This week Oklahoma breaks heads to Lubbock sitting in a tie for No. 105 in turnover margin.
A bleak number for a defense that once made its bread and butter off turning over the opposition.
"We tried to get in rush lanes and tried to keep the quarterback in the pocket but you can't get too far on the edges against him because he is going to pull the ball down," said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. "You try to keep contained and get your hands up and make him throw some balls and at times we did that and when we did that we made him throw some arrant throws."
"We've got to try and concentrate on more of that (forcing turnovers) in practice and create some drills and get in rush lanes and get some tip balls and get some deflections."
An attention to detail that Sooner players reiterated time after time during this past week's media availability.
"To win ballgames especially in this league if they're going to convert third downs like they did we're going to have to force turnovers," said Tony Jefferson. "I mean we're playing aggressive and this week we didn't get as many passes but we still need to force turnovers when they run the ball we need to try and strip it these next two weeks."
While not as glaring but perhaps just as troubling was the Sooners fourth quarter effort giving up 133 yards, seven first downs and 14 points.
More importantly was their inability to get off the field when needing it the most giving up back to back first downs- that essentially ran out the clock on a Sooners comeback- on a pair of third and longs with the game on the line and trailing by five.
Something of which came as a surprise as Oklahoma entered Saturday night's match-up holding their first two opponents to a 3-for-16 (18.6%) third down conversion rate.
"I thought for three quarters we did exactly what we wanted to do if you can hold their offense through three quarters to three points that's difficult to do. For all of us what hurt so bad was we didn't execute down the stretch and that's what cost us so dearly," said Stoops.
"Not getting off the field on third down we had some critical third downs that we just got out executed and that was the game. We bent a little but didn't break and kept them out of the endzone."
Bend but don't break which has become a norm through the first three games.
A characteristic that has developed as an identity for the Sooners defense through their first three games that will need to change if the turnover margin isn't changed from a minus to a plus.
Walker return a quiet one
The addition of senior defensive tackle Casey Walker to the Sooners starting line up was taken as a step in the right direction.
Bringing with him to the line up Walker brought 17 tackles from a year ago in which he started eight of Oklahoma's 12 games.
"He played well. He bounced back and didn't miss a beat," said Walker's tag team mate Jamarkus McFarland. "I feel like we didn't have any disturbing busts or nothing like that but our personal goals and stuff like that we want to achieve and we need to sharpen our edges up on that but he (Walker) came bounced back and wasn't too winded at all or nothing like that so it was good to see him back out there and have him beside me."
"We graded out pretty well and we didn't have too many minuses. As a unit we played well and took care of our gaps in the middle but then you look at the loss and it still wasn't good enough."
The Garland (Texas) native returned to a starting role after missing the Sooners first 2 games of the season due to 'personal reasons'.
Filtering plays to perimeter
On Monday Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops explained the Sooners gameplan was to filter Colin Klein and the Wildcat run game to the perimeter.
"We wanted to disrupt his running lanes and make the ball bounce to the perimeter so that's the structure of the defense," said Mike Stoops.
The pair of Sonoer safeties combined double digit tackle effort marked the first time a defensive backfield combo recorded double digit tackles since Jamell Fleming and Jonathon Nelson in 2010 vs. Texas A&M.