Defense Turns Lights Out on Christian Ponder

NORMAN, Okla. – Maybe the No. 10 Sooners' defense also held back last week against Utah State, because the No. 17 Florida State Seminoles' offense was not ready for what defensive coordinator Brent Venables drew up Saturday in OU's 47-17 victory.

Despite giving up an opening-drive touchdown, the defense gave up 345 yards – 222 passing and 123 rushing – allowed just 14 first downs and forced three turnovers, all of which are night-and-day stats from a week ago.

"We had a real slow start, but after the second series, we were clicking as a defense," said senior free safety Quinton Carter, who led the Sooners with eight tackles. "Everyone doing their part took all of the guys just running for the ball and getting out there."

But, once the defense came back onto the field for the second time, this time with a 14-7 lead, it was lights out and took control of the game. OU forced a three-and-out which ended with a 12-yard sack by junior defensive end Frank Alexander, who missed the season opener with a hair-line fracture in his foot.

"We just settled in," junior linebacker Travis Lewis said. "The coaches had a great game plan today, not a good one but a great one. Players just settled down, took that deep breath and just went out there and played OU defense."

Alexander's sack was the first of four for the Sooners and one of many hurries and hits on Florida State's elusive senior quarterback Christian Ponder. He hardly seemed to look comfortable in the pocket the rest of the day, and any time he did it did not last for very long.

The Sooners' pressure forced Ponder to make many poor decisions, including two interceptions, one by Lewis and the other by junior cornerback Jamell Fleming, on passes that seemed to be destined to end up in a defender's arm.

"Ponder sitting in the pocket really helped us defensive backs because it gave us the chance to just guard the receiver and focus only on him," Fleming said. "We really came together and just played better overall as a team this week."

And the defense's day would have looked better if the Seminoles had not used the game's final 43 seconds to drive down the field for a 71-yard touchdown drive against the Sooners' backups.

The only question is which defense will show up next week against Air Force, the one on display Saturday or the one that gave up 24 points to Utah State? Based on what we have seen from Venables and the defense in the past year, once the defense makes a statement and shows what it can do, it sticks to and is consistent with that quality of play.

"[It was just us] playing the way we know we can play, just playing with confidence," Carter said. "Pretty much playing balls out, knowing we can win."

But, while head coach Bob Stoops was pleased with the win and the defense's performance, he sees the game for what it is, just one game.

"We've got a lot coming at us, so it's one game," Stoops said. "You played well, but we'll be judged on the whole year."

For now, the defense will try to build upon Saturday's dominance and continue it against Air Force.

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