Forcing turnovers an issue for defense

The Oklahoma defense gave up 452 passing yards against Texas Tech and didn't force a turnover. Jeff Moffett/Icon SMI

NORMAN, Okla. -- It has been a strange couple of weeks for the Oklahoma Sooners.

Watching a Sooners defender break a game wide open with a game-changing interception or momentum-altering forced fumble has become a common sight over the past few seasons.

Yet, those big plays were absent against Kansas and Texas Tech. And, not surprisingly, those two games might be the Sooners' worst performances of the season.

"That's very disappointing," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said of Oklahoma's recent turnover drought.

Against Texas Tech, OU's turnover opportunities were few and far between. Quarterback Seth Doege made good decisions and good reads throughout, and the Red Raiders' ball security was superb.

Nonetheless, the Sooners' opportunistic defense usually has found a way to force a turnover in the past, no matter how well the opponents have played.

"Somebody had to step up and make a play in that game," safety Aaron Colvin said. "Unfortunately, we didn't."

And the Sooners paid for it, suffering a 41-38 upset loss to Texas Tech.

"We had seven or eight [pass breakups]. It could have made a huge difference, and we talked about that," Venables said. "After the fact you can see what a big difference that turnover could have been."

OU has become accustomed to at least one game-changing turnover. Since 2008, the Sooners have forced 111 total turnovers in 48 games, an average of 2.31 turnovers per contest.

For the Sooners to play a game without a forcing a turnover is unusual, as it has happened just eight times since 2008, including three times this season. It's not a coincidence those three games against Missouri, Kansas and Texas Tech are arguably the Sooners' worst three games of the season.

And though the Sooners tie for No. 30 in the FBS with 15 turnovers forced in 2011, the statistics are skewed because OU forced five turnovers against Texas and four against Ball State.

"We didn't get the timely turnovers and really be able to grab the momentum," Venables said. "So that's frustrating."

It's even more unusual for the Sooners to have back-to-back games without forcing a turnover. The last time that happened was October 2008, when Baylor and Texas went without a turnover in consecutive games against Oklahoma.

Even though OU hasn't been as opportunistic as usual in the past two weeks, don't expect the Sooners to change anything in practice.

"It's not like you have to do things differently," Venables said. "You just do them better, do them harder and more violently."

The coaching staff will emphasize forcing turnovers with the defense in meetings but Venables said there's no reason to alter practice schedules and change what has clearly worked for the past four years.

"We talked about, we need to make those plays," Venables said. "If you get your hands on the ball, you have to finish it and make a play."

One turnover could have been the difference against Texas Tech. The Sooners' defense was disappointed with its play, but one turnover could have changed the outcome of the game and the perception of how the defense played.

"Everybody was trying to get one, but it just didn't happen for us," Colvin said. "We've got to step up and make plays. I mean, we were out there going hard, you could see guys were flying around. We just have to come up with the football more."

Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bchatmonespn@gmail.com.

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