Wow, what a difference an offseason makes.
That wasn't just a different OU defense, that was.....I don't really know what to call it. Let's go with pretty damn impressive.
Detractors are going to poo-poo the defensive performance away "because it was Louisiana-Monroe" but this was an experienced and talented offense the Sooners just completely shut down.
Easily the most exciting part of the night from a defensive perspective was the pressure Oklahoma generated on Kolton Browning. This was a highly suspect defensive line heading into tonight's season opener and they came out and played with a reckless abandon.
Charles Tapper is an absolute beast. That just needs to be said.
Jordan Phillips played well and while it may not be reflective in the final stats, he was, at times, the disruptive force this team so desperately needs him to be.
It would appear the rumors of a three man defensive line were more than just rumors. Oklahoma spent the better part of the game in a 3-3-5 formation and they obviously had a considerable amount of success with it. They brought pressure with the blitz from a variety of different spots on the field and it was encouraging sign for a team that struggled mightily to do exactly that all of last year. They were "multiple" as Mike Stoops has said all along they would be and if they can have as much success with their schemes as they did tonight, then 2013 could be very different than a number of OU fans might have predicted.
Aaron Colvin was the stud that we all know him to be. Credit to redshirt freshman Zack Sanchez for stepping into the starting lineup for a suspended Cortez Johnson and playing pretty well. As expected, he was picked on early and often but acquitted himself quite well for the most part after an early missed tackle that led to a ULM first down. Julian Wilson played well and recorded an interception. The safety position did what they needed to do, didn't get beat over the top and provided solid run support. Somewhat surprising that Hatari Byrd didn't get in until late in the game, but that could easily change as the season progresses.
And while this may not technically fall under the defense per se, Oklahoma has gone and found themselves a kickoff guy who can finally put it through the back of the end zone. Nick Hodgson was outstanding Saturday night in not allowing a single kickoff return. Now maybe he had the wind at his back, but even with that in years past OU has not been able to do what he did tonight. That's what we call progress.
Look, obviously it was Louisiana-Monroe but a shutout is still a shutout. In fact, it was the first shutout an OU defense has recorded since 2010 in a game against Iowa State. There are no misconceptions that all of their issues have been resolved, but it's impossible not to take away a number of encouraging signs from this defensive performance.
Given where we last saw this defense and getting absolutely embarrassed in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M, it's impossible not to be incredibly encouraged by what we saw Saturday night.