All season long, the Oklahoma Sooners have had to answer questions for their defensive shortcomings. Whether those questions have been about poor tackling, routinely giving up big plays, or not forcing enough turnovers, no matter what the most unstoppable offense in the country continues to do, the conversation surrounding the Sooners’ CFP-worthiness always seemed to find its way back to the defense.
Starting the game out like this helps shift the discussion and builds confidence on the defensive side of the ball:
In an unexpected development, Oklahoma’s defense set the tone for the game on TCU’s first play. Amani Bledsoe wrapped up Kyle Hicks and Kenneth Murray swooped in to knock the ball loose. With a roaming Caleb Kelly still engaged in the play, he found himself in prime position for one of the only defensive touchdowns on the season for the Sooners. The mostly Crimson crowd was electrified, and TCU was stunned.
There were several offensive plays that felt like daggers in the second half, but what may have been the true moment that destroyed any semblance of hope the Horned Frogs had happened after OU’s first punt of the game:
Kenny Hill, standing in his own end zone, lofted up a pass that fluttered haphazardly into ball-hawking Will Johnson’s hands, followed by a short return inside the red zone. It was becoming apparent that TCU wasn’t going to be able to keep up with Oklahoma’s offense mainly because Oklahoma’s defense was making plays that kept the Horned Frogs from sustaining drives.
The tone of the national conversation should start to change after a mostly strong performance in the Big 12 Championship. For all the talk about TCU shutting Oklahoma’s offense out in the second half on November 11th (which proved to be just as misleading as we all thought it was), it was the Sooners’ defense blanking the Horned Frogs in the second half and three of four quarters overall.
In the second quarter, TCU made a few plays that were nearly impossible to defend without being penalized, so I have to give them credit for that. On the only TCU touchdowns of the game, either the quarterback made a perfect throw or a receiver made an exceptional catch. What can be justifiably scrutinized are the poor angles and the lack of sure tackling in space.
In the other three quarters of the game, the Sooners played with a lot more discipline and speed. To show that in numbers, TCU racked up a total of 317 yards on Saturday, with 169 of those yards coming in the 2nd quarter. In the other three quarters of the game, the Horned Frogs averaged less than 50 yards per quarter. I want to also note that TCU had its second and third-lowest scoring games of the season against OU.
What was one of the more welcomed sights of the day was the effort and intensity the defense played with throughout the contest. While there were still some missed opportunities early on, there were a number of plays that were made simply because of the Sooners’ want-to, like this momentous fourth-down stop:
Parnell Motley played like a man possessed all game long, and he and Okoronkwo were crucial in sealing this major turnover on downs. If Oklahoma carries that effort and execution into the semi-finals, look out.
So after one of the more impressive showings of defensive resistance, on the biggest stage the Big 12 conference has to offer, the Sooners not only solidified their case for a College Football Playoff berth, they have the look of a team who should be favored to win it all. In the grand scheme of things, the field of playoff contenders all have flaws. With the dust of championship weekend settled, Oklahoma is as complete as they come.
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