Last year was a struggle for Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper. And despite being in the middle of a big personal and team-wide revival this season, he had yet to make a dent on the stat sheet – despite the Oklahoma Sooners’ defense ranking as one of the best in the nation.
On Kansas’ second drive Saturday, Tapper saw a tip from the freshman left tackle lined up across from him. He made an inside move and came free, having not made a sack in nearly a year.
Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis was still standing in the pocket. Tapper felt like he was in slow motion as he closed in on Willis.
“I was like wow!” Tapper told reporters after the game. “I finally got a sack.”
In fact, Tapper pulled down Willis twice more before the end of the game and forced a pair of fumbles – each turned into points for Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1).
Tapper had just three sacks all of last year after being named to the All-Big 12 team as a sophomore. He had three against Kansas as No. 14 Oklahoma put up another stout defensive performance.
“Man, it was just one of them days,” Tapper told reports after the game. “I told coach, ‘If you’re hot, why not?’ You just keep playing. He kept letting me go. He said to keep firing off the ball an be free and play free.”
The Sooners’ defense allowed just 216 yards and just the lone touchdown on a short field. Through the past three games, Oklahoma has allowed just 34 points, forced eight turnovers and recorded 15 sacks.
“We still have room to improve,” Tapper said. “We still have a lot of missed opportunities, a lot of busts. We’ll get to the film room and correct and keep making improvements. The sky is limit for this defense. I feel like we can still make a lot of noise in the Big 12 and in the nation.”
Grant’s big grab
Oklahoma Sooners' Sam Grant dresses out in No. 76 for warm-ups but occasionally switches to No. 85.
On Saturday, he lined up as a tight end in the first half and was targeted in the end zone. Grant couldn’t haul in the pass, but he got a second chance.
Grant caught Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield’s final pass of the day: A one-yard touchdown strike.
“Been a long time since I came here as a tight end,” Grant said. “This was for my o-line boys. Now I’m an o-lineman, so we all shared it as an o-line touchdown. It was something special.”
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said that the Sooners might try to use Grant in that capacity before, but this was the first time Grant was targeted.
Perine Round 2
It wasn’t quite last year’s recording-setting performance, but the overall team result was a bigger win this season than when Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine broke the single-game FBS rushing record.
In two games against Kansas, Perine has rushed for 517 yards and seven touchdowns.
“It was a good job by everyone blocking,” Perine said. “Didn’t have to do much. They got us a couple times in the backfield. They had good plays drawn up, but we had good plays, too. They showed.”
Alvarez banged up
In the first half, Oklahoma offensive guard Jonathan Alvarez went down with an injury. He laid on the ground for a few moments before walking off on his own power.
Stoops said that Alvarez could have gone back into the game but instead walked the sidelines in full pads in the second half.
“He could have played, but we chose not to play him,” Stoops said.
Shaky special teams
Coming off the first field goal miss of his career, freshman kicker Austin Seibert pushed another kick.
After missing to the left against Texas Tech, Seibert banged a kick off the right upright against Kansas before hitting career-long 46-yarder.
Back-up kicker and kick-off specialist Nick Hodgson hit a field off the left upright in the second half, but it kicked back through the uprights.
Seibert didn’t have to punt.
Shannon big again for OU
In what might have been his last performance as starting middle linebacker for Frank Shannon, he once again put up a big performance.
Stoops felt confident that Jordan Evans would return to the starting lineup next week against Iowa State after practicing the final two days of this week and dressing out to play against Kansas.
For one more game, it was Shannon who played well in the middle of Oklahoma’s defense. He was second on the team with nine tackles.
“One of the strengths of our team has been the linebacker play,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “It’s good to see Frank come in and really have no real drop off at linebacker. That’s a positive.”
Oklahoma tight end Connor Knight’s first reception was a special one.
In the final minutes of Saturday’s loss, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight checked from a run play into a pass with his twin brother matched up one-on-one with a safety.
Trevor Knight threw up a jump ball and Connor Knight came down with it.
“I knew I was going out on that pass,” Connor Knight said. “I kinda had an idea Trevor was gonna toss it up. A little telepathy working right there; Absolutely deja vu. Flashback four years and almost exactly the same thing.”