It isn't possible to come away from Saturday's Bedlam game without thinking that Mike Stoops has Oklahoma's defense on the rebound. Facing a plethora of injuries, Stoops' defense saved their best performance of the season for their in-state rival. Be it a goal line stand, a interception, a rush on the quarterback, or just a much needed tackle, the Sooners brought it on Saturday in a way that we haven't seen in a while.
Freshman linebacker Dominique Alexander, who was named the Big Twelve's Defensive Newcomer of the Year on Monday, led the team in tackles with 10, but Chucka Ndulue's helmetless stop on fourth and goal will be one of the most memorable moments to stand out from this game.
Defensive end Charles Tapper provided the only sack of the game for Oklahoma but Julian Wilson and Chaz Nelson were able to pressure Clint Chelf into bad throws as well. Limiting the Cowboys' passing attack was one of the two primary defensive keys to this game. Chelf completed just 19 of his 35 passing attempts with Gabe Lynn, Quentin Hayes and Zack Sanchez all recording pass breakups to go along with Julian Wilson's interception.
The second thing that Oklahoma's defense did exceptionally on Saturday was win the battle of third downs. OSU was 2-of-13 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth. Chelf was 2-10 on third down passing attempts with one of his completions coming on the final play that was eventually fumbled backwards and recovered by Oklahoma for a game-closing touchdown. His other third down completion came up a yard shy of getting Oklahoma State a first down. In ten third-down passing attempts Chelf failed to OSU a single first down against the Sooner defense.
Oklahoma's defense didn't act alone on Saturday though. They were supported greatly by the special teams. Twice Oklahoma punter Jed Barnett pinned the Cowboys on their one yard line and beyond that be punted in such a way as to not allow O-State return specialist Josh Stewart as single return and I can't emphasize how important that was. Instead it was Oklahoma's return specialist, Jalen Saunders, who made the big play along with kicker Michael Hunnicutt and place holder Grant Bothun who made the big special teams plays.
Combined, Oklahoma's defense scored 27 of the Sooners 33 points on Saturday, essentially winning the Bedlam game. Here are a few highlights of the biggest plays plays from the two units that saved the day for the Sooners.
This is the second of the two punts where Barnett pinned O-State at their own one yard line. Unfortunately the Cowboys would turn this one into a 99-yard scoring drive but it did set the tone for this to be a great day for Oklahoma's special teams.
Jalen Saunders put the Sooners on the board with this punt return. No that isn't a block in the back, you can clearly see Oklahoma player taking a side angle, but I do think that the OSU cheerleader who yells/spits at Saunders as he runs by the back of the end zone is the same one who tried to trip Eric Striker at the end of the game. You also have to applaud the effort from an apparently non-athletic punter to make a play on Saunders.
Who doesn't love a goal line stand? This stand was monumental for the game because it not only kept O-State from scoring a touchdown but it also put the momentum squarely in Oklahoma's favor.
Ah, one of Clint Chelf's third down specials here. Gabe Lynn almost had a pick on the play before but Julian Wilson was able to jump the route on the third down pass. Not only did this game stop a potential OSU scoring drive, it also set up the drive that allowed Oklahoma's special teams to pull off the play of the game.
There are so many things that went right on this play for Oklahoma. First, Hunnicutt does a fantastic job at going through his normal routine even though he's not going to kick. That's a good sell Michael, that's a good sell. Secondly the blocking is superb, allowing Bothun the freedom to make as close to a stress free throw as possible. Finally, Hunnicutt is wide open! OSU does a good job on tight end Taylor McNamara but they also double him which allows Hunnicutt to drift to the sideline uncovered. By the time defenders get to him he has the ball and he's already crossed the goal line.
The final stat line was two touchdowns and two field goals for the special teams and a touchdown for the defense. There were several factors that had to come together for Oklahoma to pull off the Bedlam upset and two of them were the defense and special teams having huge days. Mission accomplished!