TCU Scouting Report
Thanks to a solid performance in all three phases of the game, the Sooners registered a 35-21 victory at Notre Dame. Now Oklahoma return to Big 12 play as they face the TCU Horned Frogs at 6 p.m. Saturday in a game televised nationally by FOX.
“They’re another good football team,” OU head coach Bob Stoops said of TCU. “They played a tough early schedule, but again we’re very aware of them and what a good football team they are. They always play great defense and they still do. They’re playing well so it will be another challenge here this weekend playing TCU here.”
On film thus far, the Sooners have seen that TCU is “fast, good, athletic and quick,” offensive lineman Daryl Williams said.
Another strength of TCU is its defense, according to Stoops.
“They play great defensively,” Stoops stated. “Very, very, very sound and disciplined in how they play. They play hard with great technique. You know as a coach, you always appreciate that when you watch another team play that way.”
The team understands it is important to refocus after the big win at Notre Dame and also not look past its opponent this weekend.
“It is really important. Every week is important,” offensive lineman Daryl Williams said. “We do not want to lose so we have to be focused and get back on our grind. Even if we win, whomever we beat, we need to keep trying until we get to the championship.”
Sooners Respect TCU Signal Caller
While TCU’s defense has gained nationwide respect for its history of solid play, ask defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and he’ll tell you plenty of reasons why QB Trevor Boykin keeps him up at night.
“He’s a great athlete that can extend plays, terrifically strong arm, can throw the ball down the field very well and again a lot of quarterback run game,” Stoops said following Monday’s practice. “Those guys are always dangerous. We’re going to hopefully keep him in the pocket and keep him from scrambling.”
Last season, in a 24-17 win at TCU that sealed an eighth Big 12 title for the Sooners, OU’s defense limited the Horned Frogs to 231 net passing yards and just 11 first downs.
“I thought we did a relatively good job a year ago,” OU’s defensive coordinator continued. “They hit us on some play-action passes off the quarterback run and those are some things we’re going to have to be better on. I think as a defense giving up big a play is probably the one thing I’m disappointed about. We’ve given up two, 70-plus yard runs and we’re better than that.”
“He’s a really good scrambler but at the same time he can throw the deep ball,” said Sooners’ DB Julian Wilson of Boykin. “We were watching film today and he was throwing balls 60 yards off the scramble. So really, we’ve just got to focus on staying on our man once he’s scrambling, don’t look back and stay on our man because he can get the ball down there.”
Sooners Taking Advantage of Turnovers
So far this season, OU’s defense has succeeded at forcing turnovers, with six takeaways through four games. Against Notre Dame, OU forced three INTs, which all led to touchdowns, including a pick six by LB Corey Nelson on the opening snap of the game.
In fact, the Sooners have a +4 turnover differential (9 takes/5 gives). Even more impressively, OU holds at +42 differential in takeaway points, registering 42 points off opponents’ turnovers, while surrendering no points off four giveaways.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops believes the play of OU’s linebackers is one of the contributing factors in the Sooners generating more takeaways.
“I think our production with our linebackers is so much better,” he stated. “It’s turning into more turnovers. You have to create indecision in the quarterbacks mind and the offensive line. I thought Notre Dame did a good job adjusting to where we were coming from so it’s a cat-and-mouse game pretty much. We’re trying to make them very active linebackers and do what linebackers do and blitz and come off edges and play the run. We’re playing more of them and they are being very productive.”
In terms of overall scoring differential, OU holds a +88 advantage (136 scored/48 allowed), a figure that ranks ninth among the 13 teams ranked in the top 20 of the AP Top 25 that has a perfect 4-0 record or better.
OU’s Defense Bolstered by Linebacker Play
A key component of OU’s defensive success this season has been the emergence of the linebackers. Leading the Sooners in tackles this season are Frank Shannon (27) and Corey Nelson (21).
When asked about how this group of linebackers compared to others he’s coached, Stoops said they are right up there with some from the past.
“I’m not much on comparisons but these guys are playing great,” Stoops said. “Corey Nelson has had four fantastic games and Frank Shannon has been really good with him. Eric Striker has been getting pressure and making big plays. They’re up there with some of our better ones but it’s early I still feel that they are going to continue to keep getting better.”
Shannon shared that the coaches have been key in the success he and the other linebackers have had so far this season.
“The coaches have done a good job of putting us in the right spots and giving us good opportunities to show what we’ve got out there on the field,” Shannon said.
Nelson’s and Shannon’s days as teammates predate their time in the Crimson and Cream as they attended Skyline High School together in Dallas, Texas.
Nelson, who is often labeled as a leader of the defense, said that the defense is playing with a lot of confidence right now and has also become close.
“The chemistry is there and is at an all-time high right now,” Nelson shared. “We are clicking with the chances on all cylinders and the love is there; you can feel it is and you know it is genuine.”
Some leadership qualities Nelson displayed then are still seen today, Shannon said.
“Corey is like my big brother,” Shannon shared. “When we were in high school we were both on varsity so I was always able to turn to him and ask him questions whenever I needed something. He was always the one getting everybody hyped for the game. It’s like now, he gave everybody a big speech on how we need to win, and everybody listens to him because he’s a big leader.”
After the Notre Dame game, Stoops shared that the entire offensive line had received recognition as some of the teams “players of the game” after no sacks were allowed by the o-line.
Stoops gives credit to new coach Bill Bedenbaugh for contributing to the success of the unit.
“Obviously you watch our offensive line and Bill Bedenbaugh has done a great job with that whole unit playing together and getting to the right people and executing blocks,” Stoops said.
Redshirt Freshman CB Zack Sanchez Continues to Draw Rave Reviews
While he may not have been counted on by many outside the program to perform in a starting role, CB Zack Sanchez has opened all four contests to date, drawing praise from his defensive coordinator and teammates in the process.
“He’s sound in what he’s doing,” said Mike Stoops. “He’s playing well. He’s learning and he’s gaining confidence as he goes along. There’s a process to elevating your game and he seems to be embracing that process and it seems to be working. He was a great receiver in high school so I think it compliments him doing the secondary stuff that he can do. You see him going up for the ball and he knows how to time and go up for it. Those are important characteristics for being a defensive back.”
Fellow corner Aaron Colvin also had high praise for his compadre at cornerback.
“He does a great job every week,” the senior co-captain said. “He’s just continuing to get better and that’s what you have to do as a young cornerback.”
“People are attacking him but he’s stepping up and coming to the plate every game,” added defensive back Julian Wilson. “It gets to the point now where some teams stop attacking him after he gets a couple of PBUs. He’s really coming out there and stepping up well as a redshirt freshman.”
According to Wilson, while OU fans may be seeing the fruits of Sanchez’s off-season labors now, the cornerback’s teammates knew he was poised for significant playing time after seeing him practice this summer.
“You could just tell he had a whole different mindset,” said Wilson of Sanchez’s practice habits this summer. “He was way more focused and he really just proved he wanted to be on the field.”
The Bottom Line
While numerous individuals have speculated whether the Notre Dame victory signified a significant milestone for this season, CB Aaron Colvin may have articulated the mindset of the Sooners this week the best.
“I didn’t look at it as a statement game,” the senior said. “I looked at it as a game we needed the win and we had to win. Every week we have to focus on that team and if we beat them we beat them. It was a good win because we were on the road and so much history and tradition. We were focused on Notre Dame and now we’re focused on TCU.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops put it more succinctly.
“Winning is exciting,” he said. “Our players are excited to get back to work. Losing doesn’t feel good. When you’re losing and losing and you have to go to practice, it’s not a good feeling. I’ve been in that situation before and I’d rather be in this situation going to practice with all your goals in front of you.”