Mike Stoops on OU’s Defensive Approach
Yesterday’s Sooner Report focused on the matchup between the Oklahoma offense and the Baylor defense. Today we’ll turn the tables and look at Oklahoma’s defense against Baylor’s offense.
By now, you’re probably aware that Baylor’s offense is pretty potent. First in the nation in scoring offense (63.9 ppg), total offense (718.4 ypg) and passing offense (417.3 ypg) potent, that is.
In other words, getting off the field defensively, particularly against a team that has gotten off to expansive leads, is particularly important for the Sooners.
“If we play 90 to 100 snaps, it’s not good,” said Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “You can’t win a game against Baylor playing 90 to 100 snaps. That’s not a game you want to be in.”
Instead, Stoops hopes to see a game similar to the one the OU defense played against Texas Tech that saw the Sooners hold the Red Raiders below their season passing average and to under 100 yards rushing.
“You have to come up with turnovers and you have to come up with stops on third down and that’s really the game,” Stoops said. “You have to tip some balls and hold them to field goals when they get down there. I thought we did a decent job a year ago and we were worried about giving up 450 yards. Everyone said how badly we played and I laugh about it now. I came after that game and I didn’t feel too good about it. This team, if you can hold them to numbers like that, you have a great chance to win. That’s what we were able to do a year ago.”
Perhaps the most telling thing Stoops said this week was that Baylor forces you to “defend every inch of the field, every inch.”
One of the individuals charged with defending Baylor’s explosive pass catchers at all spots on the field will be senior captain CB Aaron Colvin. Colvin has seen this show before, starting last year against Baylor when the Sooners held the Bears to just 172 passing yards. Colvin knows that he and the rest of the OU secondary will have to remain focused on every snap against team that leads the nation averaging 13.3 yards per pass attempt.
“We have to be locked in on our guys and locked in on our assignments,” Colvin said. “We have to trust what Coach Mike [Stoops] gives us. We know that they’re a great team with great speed, but as long as we stay disciplined, we’ll be all right.”
Sooner fans have been hearing the names of two Oklahoma natives being called more and more frequently as a pair of true freshman linebackers have seen increased playing time.
Dominique Alexander (Tulsa, Okla.) has answered the call following a season-ending injury to senior captain Corey Nelson suffered in the TCU game. Meanwhile, Evans (Norman, Okla.) stepped into the lineup against Texas Tech after fellow linebacker Frank Shannon was sidelined. In his most extensive defensive action to date, Evans registered eight tackles against the Red Raiders, while Alexander ranks third on the squad with 40 tackles (22 solo), trailing only Shannon (53 total tackles) and safety Quentin Hayes (45 tackles).
“We had two true freshmen at the linebacker spot, and I’m really proud of those guys,” said head coach Bob Stoops following the game against Texas Tech. “They really played well. Jordan Evans came in and had about eight tackles and a couple of pass deflections. He was where he was supposed to be, and that’s the same with Dominique Alexander. Those young guys will have great, great futures and to get in the game like that and handle it the way they did, they really showed confidence.”
Though he had played in every game up to the Sooners’ contest against Texas, Alexander made a name for himself against the Longhorns in his first career start. In one of the biggest defensive games by a freshman in Sooner history, Alexander totaled 19 tackles, tying Travis Lewis for the most tackles in a game by a freshman linebacker.
“It’s remarkable how well and how smart he played,” Stoops continued. “He’s a bright guy. Usually there’s a lot going on in that linebacker position and he was figuring it out and was in the right spots and was getting the calls correct and he did a nice job.”
Following his performance against Texas Tech, Stoops was effusive in his praise of the former standout from Norman North High School.
“He’s a natural athlete,” Stoops said. “He’s got excellent quickness and change of direction. What’s pleasing when we put him in there is how natural it was for him to find the ball and to be where he needs to be. You guys have heard me say that with a safety and a linebacker if you have to tell them too many steps on where to be then you’re wasting your time because those guys just find the ball, and he has that natural ability and instinct to find the ball and be where he should be. He’s a bright guy so he understands what we’re asking him to do.
“Those two freshmen to go through that game a week ago and have as few mistakes as they had with all the plays they made is remarkable. For Jordan to lead the team in tackles and play the way he did really says a lot for him and moving forward for how good he’s going to be.”
Evans is the son of former Sooner defensive tackle Scott Evans. Scott was a three-time All-Big Eight defensive tackle from 1988-90 and ranks fourth in the OU record books with 24.0 career sacks.
That pedigree has helped the younger Evans combine skill with instinct to stop opposing defenses. When asked if Evans’ instincts were similar to former OU wide receiver Ryan Broyles – also a Norman, Okla., native – Stoops concurred.
“It’s fair to say that, yes,” Stoops said. “One on the offensive side and one on the defensive side, but they’re just ball players. They play well wherever they’re at and they continually make plays wherever they’re at. Yeah, it’s fair to say that.”
With more than three seasons left for Alexander and Evans, the duo will likely have many more great moments to come.
Thursday Night Football
This week’s Thursday game is a rarity but not completely uncommon for Oklahoma. The Sooners have played 55 Thursday games in program history, with all but 15 coming before 1958.
Under Stoops, OU is 3-0 on Thursday but the Sooners’ lone regular season game in that time was at Tulsa where OU came out on top 62-21 in 2007. The two other games were bowls, including the 2005 Holiday Bowl victory over Oregon, 17-14, and a 31-27 victory over Stanford in the 2009 Sun Bowl.
In regular season Thursday games, OU is 28-13-6 overall. None of those have come against Baylor.
Playing in his first Thursday night game, junior quarterback Blake Bell said that he was looking forward to it.
“It’s going to be different, but not so much disrupting anything,” Bell said. “We’re just treating it like we were going through a week. We started like we were practicing this weekend so I don’t think it will disrupt anything; I think it will be fun.”
When asked if he enjoys playing a Thursday night game, Stoops responded, “Heck yeah. Can’t wait.”
Would he want to do it again next year? While still pending, Oklahoma’s game against Iowa State next year could possibly be played on a Thursday, also.
“Ask me on Friday,” Stoops said.
Sooners’ 2014 Schedule Released
Oklahoma announced its 2014 schedule on Tuesday highlighted by a matchup against the SEC’s Tennessee Volunteers and an always challenging slate of Big 12 foes. As a reminder to fans, Big 12 games are scheduled by the conference, while Oklahoma slates its non-conference foes. The dates of non-conference games for 2014 and beyond are subject to change.
The Sooners will open vs. Louisiana Tech on Aug. 30. After a bye the following week, the Sooners host Tennessee on Sept. 13. The Sooners will then resume their in-state rivalry at Tulsa on Sept. 20 before beginning Big 12 Conference play.
The Sooners and Volunteers haven’t met since the 1968 Orange Bowl after playing their inaugural contest in the 1939 Orange Bowl, a game that marked the first of Oklahoma’s 45 bowl appearances. Oklahoma and Tennessee will meet again in 2015 when the Sooners travel to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.
Oklahoma and Louisiana Tech will square off for the first time in 2014, while the Sooners will seek to register an eighth consecutive win under head coach Bob Stoops against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
“We have continued making a conscious effort to include perennial national powers on our non-conference schedule,” said OU vice president and director of athletics, Joe Castiglione. “We are excited to host the first-ever regular season meeting between Oklahoma and Tennessee at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
"With the College Football Playoff beginning in 2014, we all recognize the increased importance of playing marquee non-conference opponents in addition to our always competitive Big 12 Conference schedule.”
For a third consecutive year, each Big 12 team will face a nine-game, round-robin conference schedule. The Sooners begin their conference slate at West Virginia on Sept. 27. The Sooners are 4-2 all-time vs. West Virginia, including back-to-back conference wins in 2012 and 2013.
The Sooners will also seek to register a third straight Big 12 victory against TCU when Oklahoma travels to Fort Worth, Texas, on Oct. 4. That three-game road stretch will mark the first time that Oklahoma has played three consecutive games at opposing venues since playing four straight true road games en route to the school's third national championship in 1956.
The 109th edition of the AT&T Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas will be held in Dallas on Oct. 11. The Sooners have won three of their last four meetings against the Longhorns and are 9-6 overall against Texas under Stoops. Oklahoma returns home to face Kansas State on Oct. 18.
The date for Oklahoma’s road contest at Iowa State is still pending. The Sooners will play in Ames, Iowa, on either Thursday, Oct. 30 or Saturday, Nov. 1. Overall, the Sooners own a 70-5-2 all-time advantage against Iowa State, including 14 consecutive victories.
Oklahoma resumes its home schedule on Nov. 8 vs. Baylor, then travels to Texas Tech on Nov. 15. OU closes out the season with back-to-back conference home contests for the first time since 1990, playing Kansas on Nov. 22 and in the Bedlam Series vs. Oklahoma State on either Saturday, Nov. 29 or Saturday, Dec. 6.
Dates are subject to change as adjustments are possible to accommodate television partners' requests. Fans will be notified via SoonerSports.com and the official @OU_Football Twitter feed once the Big 12 Conference finalizes dates for 2014 contests at Iowa State and vs. Oklahoma State.
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State of the Art
When Baylor head coach Art Briles was asked earlier this week about the last time his squad lost, here’s what he had to say. For the record, the Sooners registered a 42-34 win in Norman on Nov. 10, 2012.
“They are always just a really good football team and that is the situation; that is why they are where they are,” Briles said. “When you play them you know you are playing good personnel that have a lot of tradition.”
While Oklahoma historically may have more experience playing on a big stage, Briles knows that part of the beauty and the burden of the Big 12 is that everyone plays everyone in the conference.
“You know the big stage deal, it is what it is,” Briles observed. “I mean it just happened to work out this way and that is where we are at. When we looked at Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa State and Kansas State on our schedule prior to the season, we said those are big games because every conference game is a big game. It just happened to land this way at this time. From that standpoint, that is the way we view it and as far as down the road, for us nothing exists beyond Thursday night.”