490 total yards allowed compared to 778 yards is technically an improvement, but neither total is really all that impressive. To be perfectly honest, there isn't much analysis or insight we can offer you respect to what has happened with this defense in recent weeks. It's pretty simple.
This Oklahoma front four lacks anyone even remotely close to resembling a difference maker and they have been physically dominated in these last two games. That's really the only explanation for teams putting together 16 play drives against you. When you are incapable of getting stops, your opponent can chip away first down after first down to keep the chains moving. Which is exactly what we saw Saturday night, Oklahoma once again had no answer for the Cowboys running attack, something many of us feared heading into the game. Admittedly, we didn't expect it to be Clint Chelf gashing the defense on the ground but I suppose it does fit with the trend of recent weeks.
To be fair, there was some improvement with respect to the pass rush. While it was anything but consistent, they were able to generate some pressure, even rushing some throws from Chelf at times. Some of that was the result of bringing extra guys with the blitz, but even that had not been effective prior to Saturday. It's a necessary evil, but one that Mike Stoops will continue to have to employ if they have any hope of getting pressure on the quarterback.
Another missing element to this defense that returned, as everyone expected, was the linebacker position. After a disastrous decision in the previous two games to remove them from the defensive game plan, Mike Stoops reinstated them to mixed results. They weren't fantastic, but they also weren't the liability they've been at other times this season. Frank Shannon was the leading tackler for the unit, finishing with seven tackles, but suffered an injury in the second half and was unable to return. His replacement, Tom Wort, did record a big sack late in the game but finished with just three tackles. Much like the defensive line, it's just a position that lacks any real difference makers. They are good enough players, but no one that an opponent really has to worry about.
All of which only makes what this secondary has done, both last night and all year, all the more impressive. Seriously, if they weren't as great (great, not just good) as they are this Oklahoma team would have at least four losses, minimum. Just think about it, when you're generating almost zero pressure on the quarterback it's borderline amazing this secondary hasn't given up more big plays. There is no denying they've had their own issues tackling, especially in these last three games, but from a coverage standpoint there is almost nothing more any rational OU fan could ask of them. I mean, six of the team's leading tacklers in this game were in the secondary. Mike Stoops has put the entire defensive season on the shoulders of this secondary and, for the most part, they have answered that incredibly unfair challenge.
Look, it's a flawed defense. We can argue the reasons for it (talent, personnel, scheme, etc.), but at the end of the day facts are still facts. Mike Stoops should be commended for hiding the flaws for as long as he did, but given what we know now it seems as though it was inevitable before those flaws were exposed. He made just enough adjustments in this Bedlam game to overcome their deficiencies, and I mean just enough. There weren't many instances in this game where the OU defense stepped up, but much like the adjustments made there were just enough.
Holding Oklahoma State to a field goal in overtime, when OU had hardly slowed them down all night, was clearly the difference in the game. Doesn't change that they struggled for most of this game or that none of these issues will have been resolved next week in Fort Worth (don't even get me started about next year). But on this night, the scoreboard was the only stat that mattered in the end.
And thanks to a little thing we like to call Sooner Magic, Oklahoma was fortunate enough to come out on top.