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Run defense needs fixing ... quickly

MORGANTOWN, W.V. -- As he sauntered to the postgame podium late Saturday night, Mike Stoops was handed a copy of the stat sheet.

"Do I have to look at them?" said Stoops, as he flipped the paper over. "I don't want to see them."

In a 50-49 win Stoops' defense deserved to lose, the Sooners couldn't pressure Geno Smith, couldn't cover Stedman Bailey and, most certainly, couldn't tackle Tavon Austin. Stoops was brought back to the save the Sooners' defense, not surrender 778 total yards, which was far more than Brent Venables or any other OU defensive coordinator ever allowed.

"A humbling night in a lot of ways," Stoops said. "Very disappointed in our containment of the football, our ability to tackle in space. Virtually the whole second half was a fiasco.

"We didn't have a good enough plan, and didn't make great adjustments, obviously."

Obviously.

One would've thought Stoops would've scrapped the seven-defensive back defense after Baylor carved up the Sooners for 252 yards on the ground last week. Bob Stoops was stubborn in the Baylor postgame news conference about it, and Mike Stoops evidentially was stubborn about it in preparation for West Virginia.

Anticipating OU might try the defense again, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgersen put in quite the wrinkle, swinging Austin from receiver to running back. With dime back Julian Wilson essentially playing middle linebacker, Holgersen kept dialing up running plays and Austin kept blasting through holes the size of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Again and again. With no adjustments from the Stoops brothers whatsoever.

"It really hurt us," Bob Stoops said. "Obviously, we weren't ready for it."

Obviously.

The Stoops brothers praised the Mountaineers afterward, calling Austin's the best performance they'd seen and West Virginia's offense one of the best they'd faced.

"Give them credit for some execution," Bob Stoops said. "We deserve some of the criticism for not playing as well, but again, they're a good team.

"An explosive team."

Except the Mountaineers aren't a good team, and they hadn't been particularly explosive in the last four weeks, all WVU losses.

During the losing streak, West Virginia had averaged just 25 points a game. Oklahoma State, which OU plays next, annihilated the Mountaineers and is playing as well as any team in the Big 12. On Saturday, as Austin was getting going, the Cowboys were polishing off a 38-point victory over Texas Tech.

The Mountaineers were explosive Saturday. The Cowboys have been explosive every Saturday, regardless of the quarterback. Despite having to shuffle three quarterbacks in and out because of injuries, OSU has scored 30 points in all but one game this season.

Nationally, the Pokes rank third in scoring, sixth in passing and 18th in rushing. They feature the Big 12's best offensive line (yet again), the Big 12's best running back, Joseph Randle (Austin's a receiver), and the Big 12's best backup running back, Jeremy Smith.

Despite their successes facing the Sooners, Baylor and West Virginia are not running teams. OSU is.


"It's all out there on tape now, so OSU is going to come in and try and expose us for a third week," senior defensive end David King said. "We're just playing bad football all around defensively. We can't make any plays, can't get any pressure on the quarterback, can't tackle.

"I don't know what's wrong with our defense, but something's got to change."

They can start with the seven DB defense, which never again should be spoken of in Norman, never mind implemented into an actual game plan. But OU can't stop there. The bad football wasn't just because of a poor scheme. Sooners from King to Javon Harris to Tony Jefferson whiffed on tackle after tackle, and that's when they were lined up in the right gaps. When they weren't, the sea parted so wide that Casey Walker could have glided through untouched, much less the fastest guy in all of Appalachia.

"We didn't hold the edges; the ball was going downhill on us," Mike Stoops said. "The game of football is about making adjustments, and we didn't make any good ones, but we had some good calls that should have worked, and we had guys get out of position. That was very disappointing."

Somehow, the Sooners have survived the last two weeks. But with another defensive performance like Saturday, it's hard to see them surviving again. Especially against an attack like OSU's that actually runs the ball for a living and can sling it around, too.

"Oklahoma State, they could do the same thing," Mike Stoops said. "Our inability to stop the run the last two weeks -- we've got to make some adjustments. It's unacceptable.

"And if we don't do a better job, then we're going to be living on the edge."

The last two weeks, that's become painfully obvious.