Different doesn't always have to mean ineffective and five games into the season, that's where we appear to be with this Oklahoma football team.
The prolific offensive teams that OU fans have become accustomed to seeing appear to be a thing of the past. Saturday night the Sooners won courtesy of a dominant defense, aided by a TCU offense that has some pretty significant problems. They were held without a first down for the entire first half and had more plays ran than total yards at halftime. Offensive struggles or not, those are two pretty damn impressive stats for Mike Stoops and this OU defense. To call TCU's first half offense inept would be an insult to the word.
In instances such as these, it's somewhat difficult to truly assess which side deserves more of the credit though both need to be acknowledged. The OU defense contributed greatly to TCU's struggles with their pass rush and coverage ability, but it would be inaccurate not to admit some of TCU's offensive woes were self-inflicted.
There was a reason the comparison to the 2001 Florida State game was used in the headline. Because we haven't seen defense played like that from Oklahoma in a long, long time, but we saw it again Saturday night.
And while it's a stark contrast to what we as OU fans have become accustomed to seeing, it was fun to watch and hopefully something we'll see even more of as this season (and those in the future) continues.
So with all that out of the way, let's move on to the respective units and individual performances.
The Defensive Line
With the news breaking shortly before the game that OU would be without their most dominant defensive lineman, Jordan Phillips, the tension quickly started to mount amongst fans. The explanation initially provided was a 'leg injury suffered during the Notre Dame game', but Stoops later said during his postgame press conference that Phiilips unavailability was due to "He (Phillips) has some genetic issues that tend to creep up on him every now and then." So good luck figuring that one out.
Regardless, both Jordan Wade (who started in place of Phillips) and Torrea Peterson acquitted themselves quite well in Phillips' absence. Neither were nearly as dominant as Phillips has been through four games, but they certainly weren't the potential liability many might have feared them to be going into the game. In fact, Wade even recorded his first career sack.
Chuka Ndulue started the game in place of Geneo Grissom, presumably to offer some additional size against a TCU team many expected to feature their run game with Trevone Boykin's limited abilities passing the football. Evidently their offensive coordinator had a different plan.
But the star of this line Saturday night was undoubtedly Charles Tapper. The sophomore defensive end recorded two sacks in the game and was a nightmare to block off the edge for TCU the entire game. But perhaps his most impressive play of the game, and his season to date, came near the end of the first half and didn't appear to at the time and still isn't getting enough recognition for how big of a deal it was.
Bare in mind that Tapper is initially double teamed on the play, but what you want to pay attention to here (if you hadn't already) is where he comes from to make this tackle on Boykin. Look at the angle he has on the play, after said double team, and how quickly he closes it to track down the TCU quarterback from behind! And mind you, this isn't running down a Landry Jones from behind. Boykin is a hell of an athlete and by all transitive properties of how this world operates for those of us who are not freak athletes, this play never should have happened.
There are probably a handful of defensive ends in the country, playing either on Saturdays or Sundays, who could have made this play. And Oklahoma has one of them. Which is something the Sooners haven't been able to say at that position for many, many years. When you hear people who know what they're talking about say this kid could be really special, this is just one of the reasons why.
Another very active night for the OU linebackers with all three of Corey Nelson, Frank Shannon, and Eric Striker making plays on numerous occasions. Shannon finished with a team high seven tackles, Nelson finished tied for second on the team with six, and while Striker only officially recorded two he was a constant presence in the TCU backfield rushing off the edge.
However, there were some things to be concerned with coming out of the game. Most notably being the apparent shoulder injury Nelson suffered in the fourth quarter which kept him on the sidelines with an ice pack taped around said shoulder for the remainder. The other being the play of true freshman Dominique Alexander who looked overmatched at times, none more so than when Boykin basically carried him into the end zone from several yards out.
As of the time this will post, there has been no update regarding Nelson's status and probably won't be until Stoops' Monday afternoon press conference. For all the grief (and deservedly so) OU fans want to give this week's opponent, Texas, going into that game without Nelson is not something anyone in crimson wants to happen. No matter how bad you might think Texas is this year.
We'll get to the OU secondary in a minute, but it would be criminal not to acknowledge just how impressive the TCU secondary played in this game. For probably the first and only time all year, the OU secondary wasn't the best on the field and that is a well deserved compliment to TCU. If there is a better cornerback in the country than Jason Verrett these eyes have never seen it. That young man is scary good. But the unit as a whole played incredibly well and gave Blake Bell and this OU offense fits for the entire game.
As for the Sooners, it was pretty much what we've come to expect. Which, considering the question marks many had regarding this unit coming into the season, is pretty incredible to comprehend just five games into their season.
Aaron Colvin was his usual steady self, finishing with five tackles and a sack. Zack Sanchez was solid once again, but if there we're nitpicking he really does need start turning some of these pass deflections/breakups into actual interceptions. Playing opposite Colvin, he's only going to continue to get thrown at and he needs to start making teams pay for that in turnovers.
While neither Gabe Lynn or Quentin Hayes probably stood out per se, they were where they needed to be (for the most part) and made the tackles when asked to do so.
Additionally, Julian Wilson who often gets overlooked in these recaps played a key role Saturday night in shutting down TCU's explosive Brandon Carter. For those who might not remember, Carter was initially committed to Oklahoma at one point but changed his mind before signing day when TCU offered him the opportunity to play wide receiver (OU had recruited him as a defensive back). Carter had an 80-yard touchdown catch against the Sooners last year, but was held without a single reception Saturday night and Wilson played a significant role in making that happen.