On the first defensive play of the game, Zack Sanchez suffered an ankle injury sidelining the cornerback for the remainder of the game. Against the one of the nation's top passing attacks, a potential weakness instantly revealed itself. Yet, someone needed to fill the void as Dakota Austin received the nod.
Obviously, OU came in with a clear game plan...stop Jakeem Grant at all costs forcing other players to beat the defense. Testing the newly installed Austin, the junior came up with an interception in the endzone in the closing seconds of the first half. Impressed with how the cornerback responded to the challenge, Mike Stoops noted, "they tried to attack him (Dakota Austin) early and he held up. Then he comes back and makes a great play before half. It's that ‘next guy up' mentality, but we're about six corners down right now." For me, I knew Austin proved worthy with an open field tackle after giving up a seven yard cushion to the receiver.
Holding an explosive offense to a season low 27 points is impressive. Giving up 233 yards on 40 passing attempts to talented quarterback Patrick Mahomes is another accomplishment in and of itself. But, the biggest storyline on the defensive side of the ball remained the ability to create turnovers. With hands in the passing lanes along the defensive line and pressure on Mahomes, Oklahoma forced four interceptions on the afternoon.
Watching a little more closely, the Sooners played a zone defense fairly often putting defenders in a position to succeed and capitalize on mistakes. The tactic worked well enough while fans witnessed three different linebackers come up with an interception. Eric Striker describes the moment, "I knew he was getting the ball out so I just jumped and batted it. It could have went any way but it just went into my hands. I was really just trying to knock it down but it came down. Tried to go for six and got tripped up. I thought my stiff arm was alright, for me at least. You know, I'm not a running back, but I did play running back in little league. I got tripped up. I hated that, and wish I could have scored, but we got six points out of it so it's all good."
Third down defense seemed to be the one area of concern. The Texas Tech Red Raiders converted on obvious passing situations ending the game with 12 conversions on 18 attempts. Of course, one simply cannot complain with a 63-27 victory though!
Defensive Line - With Matthew Romar returning from an injury, the defensive line continued to find success with a three man rush. Putting pressure on Patrick Mahomes while limiting the damage done by DeAndre Washington, this group impressed. Tipping multiple passes at the line of scrimmage, Matt Dimon and Charles Walker made their presence felt. The two combined for three tackles for loss and two sacks. Still I'd like to see a rushing average allowed below 4.6 and number closer to 100 than 200 in total rushing yards allowed from the defensive front. Grade: B+
Linebackers - Frank Shannon earned his first start of the season replacing an injured Jordan Evans. In a bit of surprise, Devante Bond remained on the sideline allowing P.L. Lindley to once again make the start. Regardless of being short-handed so to speak, the talent made up for the loss. Eric Striker, Dominique Alexander, and Shannon all recorded interceptions removing confidence from a talented quarterback. On another note, Shannon recorded a team high 13 tackles on the afternoon showing a return to form. Grade: A
Secondary - One week after rearranging to secondary, the moves continue to pay dividends. A young but talented Steven Parker played with aggression setting the tone for the rest of the crew. Bending at first, Dakota Austin responded to the challenge making an great play to all but end the half all while racking up 11 tackles. Part of me thinks the success really stemmed from the defensive front. Yes, I understand both units work depend upon one another greatly. Grade: A