Or did it just seem like it??? I think I could watch the replay four or five more times and still wouldn't be convinced we actually played with a defensive line. That was without a doubt, one of if not the worst defensive game plans I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. You have to put a healthy amount of blame on the players on the field of course, but Brent Venables and Bob Stoops' system was an epic fail of historical proportions last night. Some might say I'm overreacting, and they may (I stress may) have a point, but allow me to make my argument after the jump.
Look, before any of you even go there I get that OU has been incredibly successful over the Bob Stoops tenure. This game doesn't change any of that, but what it also doesn't change is all of the choke jobs, the flat performances, the clear lack of preparation at times, the inexplicable continued busted coverages, the piss-poor attempts at tackling while going for the "big hit", or the embarrassingly inept blitz packages. But again, allow me to go into a little more detail.
It's been what now, 11 years? And yet for some unexplainable reason our defensive coaches have yet to figure out that a LB, no matter how good or athletic, simply is not capable of covering a smaller, faster, quicker slot WR. Despite the infinite examples of this very fact, they continue to match up our LBs in said situations only to witness them get embarrassed time and time again. I mean for god's sake, how many times does Brent need to watch Travis Lewis, an All-American quality LB, five yards behind a WR trying to chase him down before he realizes "Huh, maybe that's not going to work?" Apparently, the answer is a hell of a lot or at least as many times as it happened last night because he made zero adjustment to stop it from happening. This has pissed me off for years and is something I've complained about to friend and fellow OU fans alike. 99.9% of the time I would openly admit that Bob and Brent know a thousand times more about football and myself, but I simply cannot agree in this instance. This has never worked and will never work yet they continue to be to stubborn to adjust. Whether it's Travis Lewis, Tom Wort, Austin Box, or whoever else, they were all exposed in coverage against guys they should have no business trying to cover in the first place.
Look, I attempt to make a joke in the story headline because the only options regarding the pitiful play of our defensive line is humor or uncontrollable tears. You'd have to break out the thesaurus to even begin to attempt to describe just how poorly they played. There was absolutely zero push from the d-line the entire game. I didn't see this on the AP Photo website, so I might have to double check my sources, but I'm fairly certain this photo below is of our defensive line warming up before the game (before they put on their pads of course).
They tried four man fronts, three man fronts, guys without their hands on the ground, you can't fault them for a lack of formations. The problem lies in the fact that everything they tried failed miserably. They got legitimate pressure on Gabbert one time. You read that right, one freaking time in a 60 minute game!!! Unless my memory is failing me, which if so please feel free to correct me in the comments. But the only instance I can remember them even getting close to Gabbert was the one time Corey Nelson got through and unfortunately was unable to bring him down so even that one time produced nothing substantially positive. Obviously, the only problem up front wasn't just the lack of a pass rush as the Mizzou running game gashed OU repeatedly for long runs all night. I couldn't have been more wrong in my belief that Mizzou wouldn't be able to run the ball on OU. They ran it on OU all night and it constantly seemed like they were in 2nd and short all night long.
Another fan favorite (sarcasm) we've become accustomed to seeing in the Venables/Stoops defense is the ridiculous cushion allowed by our DBs to the opposing WRs. Well, we saw that come back last night against Missouri and considering the absolutely non-existent pass rush mentioned above Gabbert had literally all night to pick apart our secondary. Not sure the coaches even watched Mizzou game tape as they rarely throw down field, so maybe someone smarter than myself can explain why we would then feel the need to give them a 7-10 yard cushion? I have to give it up to Venables for finally, maybe the first time ever since he took over the defense, playing three cornerbacks on the field at the same time. The defense used a new formation against Mizzou with just three down linemen, Lewis and Nelson (at MLB, never seen that all year), with 6 DBs. On a normal night, when OU has some semblance of a pass rush, that formation might have been successful. Unfortunately, Gabbert had all day to get rid of the ball and no matter how good your coverage may be they just simply cannot cover for that long. Nor should they be asked to and that was the inherent flaw with our defense on Saturday night. That and the fact that we still cannot defend the middle of the field. Mizzou exploited that part of the field ala Texas 2008. Did Jordan Shipley get a 15th year of eligibility, enroll at Missouri, and legally change his name to Jerrell Jackson?
The simple fact of the matter is this defense is incredibly soft up the middle if not soft all over. I realize that statement sounds somewhat ridiculous considering they were coming off a shutout in the previous week. Granted that was against Iowa State, but that same Cyclone team had more than enough to go into Austin and pull off a monumental upset. However, the Sooners defense failed the eye test last night significantly. We all knew the defense would struggle at the DT spot heading into the season, Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander were thought to be one of the better DE combos in the league if not the country. They have been anything but thus far this season. Beal has been an immense disappointment in this his final season and Alexander is coming back off an injury but has also been virtually non-existent outside of the Iowa St. game.
The season is certainly not over, but any hope for #8 died in Columbia last night. You could argue whether or not they were a legit contender this year, but the fact remains they were #1 and likely controlled their own fate. So the pain of losing thanks to such a pathetic performance is still very real. This defense has some major issues and it may appear their horrible national ranking is a little more justified than we were willing to admit.