- Jake Trotter, College Football
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DALLAS -- Desperate for breathing room, Texas lined up in a bunch formation and handed off to power back Joe Bergeron from its 1-yard line.
But by the time Bergeron touched the ball, Oklahoma had already blown the Texas line a yard into the end zone. And before Bergeron could make a move, Jaydan Bird and Tony Jefferson smashed into him for a safety.
After two seasons of mediocrity, the Sooners are back to playing championship-caliber defense.
The Oklahoma way. The Mike Stoops way, too.
"The defense was incredible," Sooners head coach Bob Stoops said. "Physical and tough on the run, covered so well, got pressure -- all the things you want."
This had to be what Bob Stoops envisioned when be brought his brother back to Norman after finishing outside the top 50 nationally in total defense the past two seasons.
The Sooners rank 15th in total defense and have been dominant all season, but especially Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, where they completely obliterated the nation's sixth-best scoring attack.
The Longhorns generated just 14 yards the entire first quarter and only two first downs the entire first half. Only after the Sooners had emptied the bench did Texas even cross the OU 36-yard line.
"We're playing physical, we're tackling, we're not giving up big plays," Bob Stoops said. "We're building on it. Hopefully it will continue.
"And I believe it will."
The defensive turnaround in Mike Stoops' first year back since 2003 has been nothing short of remarkable. Especially in the secondary. It's hard to remember that these same players surrendered 485 passing yards to Baylor's Robert Griffin III and 452 to Texas Tech's Seth Doege last season.
When Mike Stoops arrived, the unit dropped its self-given "Sharks" nickname. But that's exactly what the defensive backs are playing like now.
A week ago, OU picked off Doege three times en route to 41-20 win that wasn't as close as the final score. Then Saturday, the Sooners intercepted David Ash twice before knocking him out of the game in fourth quarter with a wrist injury.
"Guys have more attitude this year," Aaron Colvin said. "Guys are stepping up, and making a lot more plays."
No one more than Colvin, who -- along with the hard-hitting Jefferson -- is making a serious case for All-American honors after Mike Stoops moved him from safety to cornerback during the offseason.
Against Texas, Colvin and Demontre Hurst wiped out Texas' deep threats. The two corners gave up just one pass of more than 20 yards, and even on that 31-yard Mike Davis catch, Colvin had great coverage. Texas dared to go deep on Colvin again the very next play, and he stepped in front of the receiver for his second interception in as many weeks.
"I think Coach Mike Stoops did a great job of getting pressure on him and making him feel uncomfortable back there," Colvin said. "That made our job a little easier and allowed us to guard their receivers better."
While the secondary was blanketing the Texas receivers, the OU front six was controlling the line of scrimmage.
Ends R.J. Washington and David King supplied an unrelenting pass rush, while tackles Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland helped pummel the Texas run game. Texas tailbacks Bergeron and Johnathan Gray combined to rush for just 17 yards on 12 carries.
As Barry Switzer pointed out a couple weeks ago, the Sooners might not have a Gerald McCoy or Tommie Harris up front. But collectively, they have been getting the job done for most of the season.
"We wanted to break their will," Washington said. "I got the sense we did."
The Sooners didn't need turnovers to do it, either. On nine of Texas' first 12 possessions, the Longhorns punted eight times after a three-and-out. And on the safety, Texas didn't even get to a third down.
"Our mentality is much stronger," said Jefferson, who leads OU in bone-jarring tackles. "We don't want to be a laughingstock and give up all those points and yards like last year.
"We're making a statement this year."
The Sooners made quite the statement in Dallas. And Mike Stoops has Oklahoma back to playing Oklahoma defense once again.
After two seasons of mediocrity, the Sooners are back to playing championship-caliber defense. The Oklahoma way. The Mike Stoops way, too.