Przybylo: Back to drawing board for OU defense

OU's defense must find its heart, soul and identity pretty quickly because things will only get tougher for Sooners down stretch run of Big 12 play.

You won’t find scenes like Saturday night in Lubbock too often. You can’t. There is just hardly ever a game where one unit can do nothing wrong and the other unit can do nothing right.

Oklahoma just had one of those games. The offense, led by unreal outings by quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Dede Westbrook, put up 854 yards and 66 points.

The defense will be seeing Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes in their dreams after allowing 854 total yards of offense and 59 points.

Whatever OU was trying to do on a defense, well, safe to say it just didn’t work. Not even by a little bit.

“The third downs. We went man, they hit us on a route. We go zone and they hit a comeback route. It was just uncanny. They had good rhythm,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “They had a bead on everything we did.

“We had guys running free pretty much all night. I was very disappointed in our effort and our coaching. It’s unacceptable.”

Disappointing, too. Because coming off the 38-17 win against Kansas State, most within the program believed the defense was close to making that leap. But what you find out more than anything is the Wildcats just don’t have the firepower to test the defense.

Because when it’s tested, it just hasn’t been good. OU led 30-24 at halftime and there were a lot of similarities to 2012 when OU won 50-49 at West Virginia and former Mountaineers star Tavon Austin had one of the best singular performances you’re ever going to find.

After 66-59, no idea if it was the same but sure felt like it. The dazed and stunned look in the eyes of the defenders said it all.

“It’s disappointing when we thought we were making some improvements to really fall on our face like this,” Stoops said. “We’ve got to reevaluate a lot of things we’re doing, who we’re playing. We’re thin in a lot of areas but just to throw the ball up there and catch balls, it’s not good football by anybody’s imagination.”

There’s no use dwelling on the situation. The key is to try to fix it. On paper, these are the two games for OU to do so against Kansas and Iowa State. But with the defense’s confidence level right now, nothing is a guaranteed.

The group endured 109 snaps against the Red Raiders. Most of that their own fault for allowing Tech to go a staggering 22 of 27 on third and fourth down conversions.

It’s a game where you won’t really know how much it took out of guys like Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who had to be wheeled out of the stadium after playing 107 snaps.

You won’t know it physically, and you won’t know it mentally.

“Oh, we were frustrated,” senior captain linebacker Jordan Evans said. “You’re gonna get frustrated. You just have to keep your composure and stay as a unit. You can’t point fingers. You have to build people up because no one was happy with that (performance).”

Building people up might start with having to bring some people down. Mike Stoops talked about re-evaluating things, and if he really does, some of the most head-scratching performances came from the leaders of the team and of the defense.

Evans, Jordan Thomas and Ahmad Thomas had easily their worst games of the season. You might expect a freshman like Jordan Parker to be beat, but you don’t expect the two most experienced members of the secondary to look dazed and confused for four quarters.

What Mike Stoops has to do more than anything is find an identity of what he wants the defense to be. The cornerbacks are playing so far off the line that dink and dunk completions are a given. But Saturday night they were getting beat, too, so why not change it up?

Bring some pressure from guys like Curtis Bolton, who quietly had his best game since being in Norman, and see what those guys can do one-on-one.

See what some of those young guys can do in pressure situations. You have two five-star linebackers waiting in the wings in Ricky DeBerry (2015) and Caleb Kelly (2016). DeBerry didn’t play and Kelly saw the definition of limited time.

There’s no saving these guys for later. If what’s out there isn’t cutting it like everybody knew what was going on Saturday, you’ve got to change something.

We’ll find out if Mike Stoops is willing to make that leap this week.


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