NORMAN – Oklahoma’s defense comes into every game, believing that it's up to them to win. The Sooners say it’s how they keep the edge that has helped them form the top defense in the Big 12 Conference in every major category.
On Saturday night, it really was on the defense to help keep Oklahoma’s run at a Big 12 championship alive.
Baker Mayfield has been the heart of the Sooners for much of the season, and with him on the sideline, the effectiveness of the offense plummeted. Oklahoma managed just six first downs in the second half.
“The defense isn’t able to do anything when you’re constantly kicking it back to them or turning it over and giving it to them in good field position,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “It’s tough to hang on.”
The Sooners (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) held on just long enough.
After Oklahoma took a 17-point lead with 7:55 to play in the third quarter, it managed just two first downs. Only one drive lasted more than 130 seconds, and it still ended with a punt after one first down.
Eventually something had to wear down after the Oklahoma defense held TCU to six-straight drives of three or fewer plays after a Horned Frogs' touchdown on the first drive of the second half.
“That’s our mentality before we even step off the bus,” Oklahoma safety Ahmad Thomas said. “The game is on us. We’re already playing with that chip on our shoulder. It’s not a surprise for us when it’s a 3-and-out. We’ve just got to go out there and keep playing.”
The defense allowed just two touchdowns on the first 15 drives of the game and one came on a short field, just 26 yards. It did everything it could against one of the top offenses in the nation and a team that has lost just three games in the past two years.
“As a defense, we just said it was on us,” Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker said. “If that’s the case going into next week, then it will be on us. That’s what it’s going to be for the rest of the year. We play with that chip. The defense is on us: Turnovers and trying to make big plays.”
Thanks to Steven Parker’s fingertips, the defense did just enough.
Lindley earns Don Key award
Before the game, Oklahoma’s senior class was honored and senior linebacker P.L. Lindley was awarded with the Don Key Award, given every year to the senior who shows all-around excellence.
Lindley said he found out that he won the award just before kick-off and called it an honor to win. Stoops called Lindley everything a coach could want in a student-athlete.
“Whenever he’s called upon, he's stepped up and played well,” Stoops said. “He’s never not played well. He’s accepted his role in different times, some of them bigger than others. He’s always done well. He’s always been a team guy, never missed a class, never missed an academic appointment. He works hard.”
One final home game
It wasn’t the perfect ending for Oklahoma’s 12-man senior class. But it was far better than ending their home careers with a loss.
Oklahoma’s seniors will leave the program with the 12th undefeated home season under Stoops.
“Just for the seniors to get to go out like this, it was obviously not the way they wanted to, but they’re undefeated at home,” Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight said. “You have to tip your hat to those guys.”
Oklahoma receiver Dede Westbrook got to celebrate his birthday in style – with a big-time victory and a touchdown.
Westbrook had just one catch, but he made it count with the 36-yard score in the second quarter.
Perine over 1,000-yard mark
There might not have been much doubt that running back Samaje Perine would eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in his sophmore season, but he did Saturday night for the second time in two years at Oklahoma.
He surpassed the barrier with a run in the first quarter, becoming the 31st Sooner to accomplish the feat but one of only seven players to have done it at least twice.
“Guys like that, you don’t really even have to ask how they’re doing,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said of Perine, who missed two series with a sprained right ankle. “You can just look in their eyes and you can tell.”
Perine is only the third Sooner to surpass 1,000 yards as a freshman and as a sophomore.