Defense disappointed

Sooners not happy despite holding Baylor below its season averages

Updated: November 10, 2012, 9:47 PM ET
By Brandon Chatmon | SoonerNation

NORMAN, Okla. -- The Sooners sure didn't sound like a defense that had just held one of the nation's top offenses under its average.

A solid defensive performance helped Oklahoma defeat Baylor 42-34 at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. And yet the Sooners' words after the game were layered with disappointment instead of filled with accomplishment.

[+] EnlargeJavon Harris
William Purnell/Icon SMIJavon Harris and the OU defense stifled Baylor's passing game but were gashed by the run.
Baylor entered the game as the nation's top ranked offense in total yards and passing yards, yet the Sooners held the Bears to 424 yards -- 157 yards less than their 581-yard average, including just 172 passing yards.

Nonetheless, disgust over the 252 rushing yards racked up by the Bears was the overriding message from Sooners defenders.

"We gave up too many rushing yards," defensive end David King said. "And most of that is from [poor] tackling, and we didn't get any turnovers."

With Oklahoma State and West Virginia on the horizon, the Sooners know they cannot allow big rushing numbers like they did against the Bears. If they do, their hopes of a 11-2 regular-season record and potential BCS berth could go right out the window to the delight of BCS hopefuls from coast to coast.

"You can learn a lot [from this game]," said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who will prepare to play West Virginia on Nov. 17 and Oklahoma State on Nov 24. "They exposed some weaknesses in our defenses, and all the teams we play [in the near future] can do all the things they did."

Baylor sophomore running back Lache Seastrunk showed what a dynamic running back can do to a Sooners defense focused on stopping the pass. He finished with 15 carries for 91 yards and three touchdowns as OU spread its defense and used a lot of defensive backs to slow the Bears passing attack.

As OU prepares for the Mountaineers and Cowboys, the answer for the Sooners could come in the form of a couple of new wrinkles they used against Baylor. OU used a seven-defensive back set when Baylor spread them out. The five-cornerback set allows Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris to continue to have their normal freedom to make plays in the Sooners defensive system.

"It puts more coverage guys on speed receivers instead of linebackers when they try to spread us out," Harris said. "It helps in the passing game, it really worked for us."

It didn't help in the run game, however. That safety duo will have to tackle much better against the Mountaineers and Cowboys. WVU undoubtedly will try to get Tavon Austin in open-field situations next Saturday, and OSU will use running back Joseph Randle to take advantage of any weaknesses in the Sooners run defense on Thanksgiving weekend.

"They spread our defense out," Jefferson said of Baylor's offensive system. "That was their strategy, and the safeties didn't make the plays. It's important for us to be where we need to be."

Another different wrinkle for the Sooners could help lessen the burden on Jefferson and Harris. OU used more defensive line rotations on Saturday, with eight different defensive linemen seeing considerable snaps against the Bears. The defensive line appeared fresher, amassing three sacks and one quarterback hurry. If they can get pressure on their own, it allows Stoops to design additional schemes to slow down the speedy targets at WVU and OSU.

"We just wanted to stay fresh out there, keep guys' legs fresh," King said "Every time we had an opportunity to substitute we did. I had fresh legs; I never really got winded out there."

Even though the Sooners won comfortably against BU, their body language and words spoke volumes after the win. They understand they'll have to play much better -- stopping the run while also limiting the pass -- if they hope to win out and secure a BCS berth.

"You opened up Pandora's Box, and that's what it is," Stoops said. "Hopefully we'll learn and try to be in better position next week."