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Oklahoma Sooners Football: What Is Defense?

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In a game reminiscent of Oklahoma’s 2012 victory over West Virginia, Kenny Hill passed all over the Sooners but couldn’t come away with the win.

Oklahoma v TCU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Football games are long, man.

First, it looked like the game was going to be a TCU blowout. Another quarter, and the Sooners looked to be rolling to a blowout of their own. When the third quarter wasn’t disastrous like it has been all season, OU fans breathed a sigh of relief—which proved to be premature when they had an awful fourth quarter instead.

TCU got that two point conversion it couldn’t make last season. Baker Mayfield fumbled two footballs to TCU and still managed to have a great game. Dede Westbrook finally figured out how to be a number one option. And the pass defense got totally, utterly, unmercifully obliterated—with a couple of nice pass breakups thrown in, just for jollies.

I mean, this one had everything.

On the first drive when Mayfield dropped the football instead of just taking another classic Baker long-ass sack, TCU scored one play later and I was feeling pretty pessimistic about this one. The Sooners were down 7-0 less than a minute in, OU’s best corner had just been burned over the middle and the offense’s first drive was less than inspiring.

Joe Mixon got the start he had earned, but in the early going he wasn’t doing much with the opportunity. After OU tied the game, Kenny Hill, Taj Williams and Kyle Hicks started gashing the Sooners secondary for big gains. I was smelling another demoralizing loss.

Those middle two quarters, though? Dang. We’ve been waiting for that.

I mean, Samaje Perine found his mojo, Mayfield picked up first downs on the ground and Westbrook just started running past the entire Horned Frogs secondary. Lincoln Riley didn’t abandon the running game when the going got rough, and that decision paid off big time when a flea-flicker caught TCU flat-footed and Baker found Dede wide open down the seam.

Oklahoma went on a 42-3 run in those middle quarters, and Mike Stoops’s defense looked like a totally reasonable unit. Oklahoma pulled down its first interception of the year on a careless Hill third-and-long toss in the first quarter, but not until the middle stages did the defense start looking truly formidable.

The defensive line knocked down a couple of Hill passes, and TCU kept getting caught off guard by OU’s pressure, which sacked Hill four times on the day. Obo Okoronkwo in particular had a nice game, with two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. It looked like Mike Stoops was back in his Big 12 comfort zone and finally figured out how to slow down a spread offense.

In the fourth quarter, though, Riley didn’t call enough runs and the clock moved too slowly for a worn-out Stoops defense to keep TCU off the board. Hill showed off the laser arm that made him such a promising talent, and when the Horned Frogs made it a 3-point game with a 74-yard strike to Williams and a two-point conversion, it looked like Oklahoma’s season was about to get a whole lot worse.

OU finally got bailed out by Mayfield, Mixon and, in a twist no one saw coming, Austin Seibert’s leg. It was a wild, thrilling, roller-coaster win that won’t inspire much confidence in Oklahoma fans if the Sooners are planning on letting every conference game turn into a shootout.

For as good as the OU offense looked at times today, the defense had equally bad moments. Hill finished with 449 passing yards and five touchdowns, thrown to four different receivers. Mike Stoops likes to talking about “picking your poison,” acknowledging that it’s tough to stop every aspect of another team’s offense. His squad did just enough to eke out an OU win today, but if the defense can’t play a full four quarters next week in Dallas, it may yet be a long conference schedule for this team.