Sooners seek to shore up rare poor tackling

NORMAN, Okla. — If missed tackles were an official college football statistic, the Sooners would have been near the bottom of the barrel last week.

They aren't.

But that is still little consolation for a Mike Stoops-led defense that has been solid tackling both in crowds and open space throughout most of the 2012 season.

Against Baylor, on the other hand, it was, as Stoops put it after the game, atrocious.

Missed tackle after missed tackle, near a double-digit count during the 60-minute affair, allowed the Bears rushing attack to gash them for 252 yards on the ground.

Running back Lache Seastrunk led the way with 91 yards, while quarterback Nick Florence tallied 83 yards and running back Glasco Martin added another 60.

"Well, it's a concern because it was in space," Stoops said. "You know, we were in a lot--we had a lot of space to cover. And our defense, I think that it was our lack of position on the football that led to a lot of those missed tackles, and we put our guys on an island out there and again I blame that more on the system than I do the players. They were running the ball downhill on us out in space, and we had no real containment and that was an issue.

"When you don't leverage the football well enough, then your guys are gonna be out there, and we put them out there on an island too much and we just didn't have great leverage on the football."

On one late second quarter play that was indicative of how the entire night went, one of the nation's most sure-handed tacklers, Sooner free safety Tony Jefferson, completely whiffed Seastrunk and fell down as the shifty 5-foot-10, 205-pound back scampered into the end zone for a 4-yard score.

The poor tackling on that play and many others, which led to the ridiculous rushing yardage total, was even enough to overshadow a Sooner defense that basically shut down the nation's No. 3 passer in Florence, who arrived into the contest throwing for 205 more yards per game than his 172 he totaled on that night.

Certainly make just a couple or three more of those missed tackles and it quickly would have went from an average to poor performance to a good, if not great outing.

That, plus another reason is why head coach Bob Stoops isn't all that worried about it.

"Well, it would be more of a concern if it was a common thread the whole, entire year," Stoops frankly responded to Sooners Illustrated during his weekly press conference. "We're nine games into it, it hasn't been a very common thread. So, I think, I believe guys can see some of where we missed them and we can do it a little bit better."

Admittedly, it was an immediate focus in practice heading into another contest against a potent offense in West Virginia that possesses some of the nation's most electric offensive players, including quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.

Miss against those guys, and you might as well be chasing them from behind while they head to the house for six.

"You know, guys were not making as many tackles as we usually do [last week], but I know we'll correct it and guys were pretty much emphasizing on it today," said cornerback Aaron Colvin. "And it was just small mistakes that happened last Saturday, but I know we'll correct it."

Defensive end R.J. Washington said fans shouldn't expect to see a repeat performance.

They'll instead by more gap sound this time around and come up with the plays when they're in positions to make them.

"I think it'll show on Saturday night whether we've improved it or not," Washington said. "I think it's just more of a mental aspect than anything else. You know, tackling is a want to. So, if you want to tackle, then you're gonna make a lot of tackles. So, I just think we need to stay focused and everybody in their lane and not give them a lot of downhill running lanes in places they can thrash us and just everybody getting to the ball."

Those are encouraging words, at least.

Now it's time to see if the one week hiccup is, in fact, truly a one week hiccup.

Sooner faithful sure hopes it is.

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