Jordan Thomas saw action last year against Baylor, but he definitely wasn’t in the middle of it. He had to watch earlier this season against Tulsa, suspended on the eve before the game, as the Golden Hurricane’s vertical passing game made the Sooners look bad.
Thomas has yet to have his first chance at the unique vertical passing attack born in Waco. For the rest of the secondary, this is about a second chance – an opportunity to prove themselves.
“It would mean a lot,” Thomas said. “We’ve had our ups and downs in the season, and you have all the naysayers who say we haven’t really played anyone with a big passing offense. . . . Just to go out and make a statement against Baylor would give us – not necessarily a confidence boost or quiet all the naysayers – but it would give them more proof that we are what we say we are.”
Outside of the victory against Tulsa, Oklahoma’s pass defense has been superb. Even with the season-high 427 yards allowed to the Golden Hurricane, the Sooners still boast the best pass defense in the Big 12 Conference and a top-20 unit nationally.
Take out the onslaught from Tulsa and the Sooners are giving up just 147.5 yards per game, a number that would be second-best in the country.
Oklahoma knows that it is playing well, so it doesn’t lack for swagger amid the group that has dubbed themselves the ‘Wolves.’ Instead, it’s validation the Sooners seek, knowing that they’ve only faced one truly talented passing attack.
“There’s a fine line between cocky and confidence, and we have our confidence but it’s smart to not get overly confident,” Thomas said.
What makes this time around different for Oklahoma starts with Thomas being on the field again, having matured from his one-game suspension against Tulsa. But Dakota Austin has shined in the past two games filling in for injured cornerback Zack Sanchez, who is expected back at 100 percent for Saturday.
Will Johnson has stepped in as a reliable nickel back, dropping Steven Parker back to safety while keeping his strong cover skills on the field.
“It’s one of those things where we have to come out like we do every week and show why our secondary is what we are,” Parker said. “That’s not being cocky. That’s just us wanting to be something. We have our goals set out for us and our goals have been kind of met and we want to keep on striving to be the best that we can be.”
Parker and Thomas both acknowledged the similarities between Tulsa and Baylor but said that specific game plans will be different – and the players on the Bears’ sideline will be different as well. It’s not something Oklahoma can get too caught up trying to replicate.
Oklahoma knows what’s coming Saturday. They knew what was coming last year too, though. With a pass defense that’s much different from even two months ago let alone last November, it’s proving time for the Sooners, a second chance to make a national statement.
“When we've got a lot of guys playing and playing well at that, we know that no matter what happens, we'll always have guys that come out there and compete,” Thomas said.