Best in the Land
No team in the country currently owns a better pass defense than the Oklahoma Sooners. OU has held its seven opponents to just 149.7 yards per game, more than eight yards per game fewer than a Florida State squad that ranks number two.
Only two teams have thrown for over 200 yards against the Sooners; last week Oklahoma held Kansas to only 16 passing yards on five completions, the fewest yards between two teams from BCS automatic qualifying conferences since Tennessee held Kentucky to 15 yards on Nov. 26, 2011.
This weekend, the high-powered Texas Tech offense will give the OU defense its toughest challenge to date. The Red Raiders are second in country in passing offense, averaging 416.4 yards per game.
“They have very skilled and experienced players,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “The irony of it is that their quarterbacks are their least experienced players, but they play like veterans. It tells you a lot about their system and how they teach it. They lost one guy and another one came in and they just continue to do the same thing. It’s a credit to their system and Kliff (Kingsbury) and the way they coach them and teach them. These guys can really spin it and their timing and they get the ball out of their hands exceptionally well.”
The Oklahoma defense has fared fairly well against Texas Tech in the last three meetings between the two squads. Over that span, the Red Raiders have completed 59.3 percent for 867 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. Conversely, OU has completed 61.9 percent of passes for 987 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception over that same span.
“They're a ball‑hawking defense,” said TTU coach Kliff Kingsbury. “They get their hands on a bunch of balls, so they're good against the rush, against the pass. They're just an overall very well‑coached, very disciplined defense so it will be a challenge to move it in all phases.”
Undefeated Red Raiders Coming to Norman
Texas Tech enters Saturday’s game with a 7-0 record (4-0 in the Big 12) that has the Red Raiders ranked No. 10 in the AP Poll. Texas Tech has been powered by a high-powered offense that ranks No. 6 in the country averaging 548.1 yards per game.
The situation is strikingly similar to another game not long ago.
In 2008, a 10-0 Texas Tech team faced OU with another high-octane offense, hoping to cement a Big 12 title. But the Sooners answered the Raiders behind 300 yards through the air by Sam Bradford and 100-yard rush games by Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray that brought down the Raiders by a 65-21 count before a raucous crowd at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Overall under Stoops, OU is 3-0 at home vs. Big 12 teams with a record of 5-0 or better, having also defeated a 5-0 Missouri squad 41-31 in 2007 and a 7-0, No. 1-ranked Nebraska team by a 31-14 margin in 2000.
Texas Tech is led by first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury, the former Red Raiders quarterback who passed for 12,423 yards and 95 touchdowns from 1999-02, going 1-3 against the Sooners.
On the opposite sideline will be Bob Stoops who has posted a 22-1 record in his initial meetings with 23 different Big 12 coaches dating back to 2000. That litany of victories includes wins against everyone from Bill Snyder to Bo Pelini to Mike Leach.
“It's a huge challenge anytime you go to that stadium,” said Kingsbury on Monday of coming to Norman. “It's one of the storied stadiums in college football. Their fans are crazy, hostile, intense. It's a great college football atmosphere.”
Stoops wants the same kind of excitement on Saturday that permeated Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium as the Sooners derailed the second-ranked Red Raiders in 2008.
“Yeah it would be awesome if we could re-create that atmosphere and everybody jump in and do their best to try to affect the game, build some excitement and all,” Stoops said. “We’ve got to do our part; it’s a lot easier to be excited when you’re playing well so we’ve got to hopefully give them some things to cheer about and jump in the game.”
In addition to having OU fans create a noticeable homefield advantage on Saturday, Stoops knows playing complimentary football will be key if the Sooners are going to be successful keeping the Red Raiders’ offense off the field and the scoreboard.
“We have to play well as a team and just as you said offense is part of the defense,” OU’s head coach indicated. “When you play teams that have these high-powered offenses you have to stay on the field too. I look back last year at playing (Texas) A&M in the Cotton Bowl. It’s a 14-13 game at halftime and we hadn’t punted. That was part of the game. We come out in the second half and have three or four three-and-outs in a row and it’s part of it. I’m not saying the defense doesn’t have to get their stops, too. You play together as a team. Field position, you stay on the field, get third downs, you get stopped and hopefully you’re close to midfield and you punt it and they’re on the 10 or 15. It’s all part of it. You have to complement each other, offensively and defensively.”
Mr. Consistency, Michael Hunnicutt
Junior Michael Hunnicutt is already one of the best kickers in Sooners’ history. This season, he’s making a case as the best kicker in the nation.
Hunnicutt leads all FBS players with a field goal make percentage of 93.8 on 15 of 16 kicks with his 15 conversions one shy of the national lead. For his efforts, Hunnicutt was recently named a midseason All-American by Sports Illustrated and CBSSports.com.
In less than three seasons, Hunnicutt is already the OU career leader in field goals made with 53 and counting. Last Saturday at Kansas, the junior also passed former wide receiver Ryan Broyles for 11th on the OU career scoring list.
Hunnicutt’s current success is just a consistent continuation of his first season at OU when he tied the school and Big 12 freshman records for most field goals in a season with 21 conversions.
“I always try to improve each year,” said Hunnicutt, who also leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at .938. “I’ll go out there now and not be quite as nervous as I used to. Not too much has changed, though.”
This season, Oklahoma has ruled its opponents in the fourth quarter, outscoring teams 51-27 in the final frame. In fact, the Sooners have not allowed more than seven points in the fourth quarter to any team and have outscored their opponents in every fourth period this season
The quarter will be critical against Texas Tech, a team that has scored in double-digits in every fourth quarter but one this season (the lone game being the Stephen F. Austin contest when the Red Raiders had already posted 61 points through three quarters).
“I thought the other day, again, the fourth quarter they really controlled the ball and controlled the pace and a good part of that is running the football,” said Stoops of his offense. “I thought the line and those guys really ran it well in the way we did it. I thought Blake (Bell) did a nice job with his part of it, too.”
OU Football on FOX Again
The game this weekend will be shown on FOX with Gus Johnson and Charles Davis on the call. OU is 2-0 this season on FOX with Gus and Charles, including a 16-7 win over West Virginia and a 20-17 victory over TCU.