Could 2012 be a blueprint for the Sooners?

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
10:00
AM CT
NORMAN, Okla. -- Mike Stoops was fuming.

His Oklahoma defense had just given up 424 yards to Baylor in the Sooners’ 42-35 victory in Norman a year ago.

“It was a tough night defensively, in a lot of areas,” OU’s defensive coordinator said at the time.

[+] EnlargeMike Stoops
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesMike Stoops says Oklahoma has to deal with the room Baylor creates on the field.
Roughly a year later, his tune has changed.

“I kind of laugh at it now,” Stoops said. “I came in here and I didn’t feel very good about. It’s funny, I thought we did a decent job a year ago, we were worried about giving up 450 yards and everybody said how bad we played.”

In a lot of ways, the Sooners defense had a strong showing that night. Their run defense was horrible, allowing 252 yards on 51 carries, but their pass defense was superb, limiting BU to 172 passing yards while holding Nick Florence to a 36.4 completion percentage. The Sooners allowed BU to gain just 5.05 yards per play on that night, more than a full yard less than any other defense and almost a full two yards less than Baylor’s 6.94 yards per play average in 2012.

“f you can hold them to numbers like that, you have a great chance to win,” Stoops said. “And that’s what we were able to do a year ago.”

It could serve as a blueprint for how OU hopes to slow the Bears this season.

Everyone talks about the speed Baylor’s offense brings to the table. And there’s no doubt, most defenses have spent a lot of time reading the names Goodley and Reese on the back of the jersey instead of the Baylor on the front as receivers Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese have proven their abilities to stretch defenses while averaging 23.5 and 25 yards per reception, respectively.

But the genius of Baylor’s offense is its use of space to take advantage of that speed. Their wide splits, with receivers lining up outside the numbers, create one-on-one situations that match up their speed with defenders ill-equipped to handle it. The isolation created by the formation limits the ability to provide help. In other words, against BU, a weak link can break the entire chain.

“That, to me, is what is stressful about it,” Stoops said. “They create so much room on the football field, which most people don’t do. It’s hard to get underneath help because the splits are so wide, so everything is isolated.”

Worst yet, it makes it difficult for defenses to disquise their blitzes and create confusion and chaos for the offense, which has been one of the staples of OU’s defense this season.

“That’s the whole concept of what they do,” Stoops said. “They spread you so they know what’s coming. It takes forever to come [blitz] from width, you try to disguise and time things up but they are very good at understanding where you’re coming from because of their splits.”

OU’s answer last season was to challenge the Baylor receivers with a lot of man-to-man coverage and force them to make competitive plays when the ball was in the air. Their game of “our man against your man, let’s see who is best” paid off with the Bears’ season-low 172 yards and a Sooners’ win. There’s no reason to expect the Sooners to change that approach, particularly since their secondary is better in pass coverage this season than last year’s group.

“As a defense, we challenged a lot of plays,” cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “Last year they were kind of like they are this year, just explosive plays coming out of nowhere. I feel like we limited that last year and I know as a secondary we did a lot of good things in that game.”

Lache Seastrunk and the rest of the Bears’ rushing attack could provide a game-changing element. BU rushed for 252 yards but it was on 51 carries, an average of 4.95 yards per carry, and Florence’s 24-yard run was the longest run of the game. Those are numbers the Sooners could probably live with. A yards per carry average that pierces five yards by a wide margin or several long runs would make OU’s chances of giving up big numbers on the ground but still winning much more difficult.

“Their ability to run the football is really what makes it all go,” Stoops said. “The run-pass conflict they give you is consistent, it’s repetitive and it’s good.”

If all this makes it sound like Baylor’s offense is impossible to stop, that’s because it has been. The Bears will enter the showdown with the Sooners ranked No. 1 nationally in points (63.9), yards (718.4), yards per play (9.06), passing yards (417.29) and yards per pass attempt (13.28).

“You can’t stop them from doing anything, you just have to try to challenge them,” Colvin said. “That’s what we’ll try to do as a defense, try to make every play a challenging play.”

The bottom line is pretty simple. The Sooners can’t worry about numbers against Baylor.

“This isn’t about yards,” Stoops said. “It’s going to be about stops, turnovers and not giving up huge plays consistently throughout the game.”

Brandon Chatmon | email

Oklahoma/Big 12 reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS

Fitzsimmons and Durrett: OSU scandal

Part 2 of the articles on OSU's involvment in academic fraud was released. Some claim the expose is unfounded. Ian and Richard warn that there are two sides to all stories.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Longhorns talk

Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and all the latest with the Texas Longhorns.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Barkley on Manziel

Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Kirk Herbstreit

Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Andy Dalton

Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.

Galloway and Company: Manziel talk

Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Fitzsimmons and Durrett: Dez Bryant sounds off

Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.

Fitzsimmons and Durrett: Dan Beebe

Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.