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Sooner Report: #BeatBaylor
November 04, 2013

OU Readies for Baylor’s Defense

When the Sooners face the Baylor Bears on Thursday night, Oklahoma will be facing one of the best defenses in the nation. Yes, you read that correctly. Baylor defense.

While most of America knows that Baylor enters this contest leading the nation in scoring (63.9 ppg), total offense (718.4 ypg) and pass offense (417.3 ypg), OU head coach Bob Stoops is fully aware that the Bears are also excelling on the defensive side of the ball.

“It’s the part of their team that hasn’t been talked about nearly as much as it deserves,” Stoops stated. “It’s not surprising, they have like seven seniors on their defense, and they are in the top part of the league in about every category. They are very aggressive and very disciplined in how they play you, so they are playing well.”

The Bears rank sixth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 15.9 points per game. Despite playing from ahead all season and forcing opponents to throw, Baylor still ranks sixth among FBS squads in pass defense (177.3 ypg), a mark just slightly lower than Oklahoma, which ranks ninth in the nation in passing defense (179.5 ypg). Overall, Baylor ranks 11th in total defense (316.0 ypg), while Oklahoma is 10th (314.2 ypg).

In other words, two of the country’s best defensive units will be on display in Waco on Thursday night. You don’t have to remind Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.

“They are running around, playing with a lot of confidence, tackling well, not giving up a bunch of big plays, so we have to do the flip side of that,” Heupel said. “We have to make people miss and create some big plays. They’re probably playing a little more four-man front than they have. They’ve sprinkled in some three-man front so we’ll need to be ready for that, too.”

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard is confident in the offense’s ability to keep up with Baylor’s defense.

“They’re a very physical defense,” Shepard said. “I feel like we can play with these guys and show them what we have.”

One unique aspect of the game is that it is scheduled for a Thursday night, something that Heupel said the team is looking forward to.

“I think our guys are excited to play in a big ball game against a great opponent and play on the road,” Heupel shared. “I think our guys look forward to that challenge. For the most part, we’ve played extremely well the past year and a half on the road and this will be a big test.”

“They’re near the top of the league in just about every defensive category,” added Stoops. “It’s not surprising when look and they have seven seniors on that defense.”

Of course, the Sooners’ head coach also appreciates the attention to detail that has helped pay dividends for his own defense, while the ability of the OU offense to sustain drives has also been beneficial.

“We have played pretty well,” he observed. “At the end of the day, I think the offense, and I keep saying this but it’s the truth, the offense has helped it play better by limiting opportunities for the other team. Overall, I think we have had a lot fewer mistakes and mental errors, we have played a lot more aggressively. We have a lot more pressure on the quarterbacks. We have covered really well. Our third downs have been really good. For the most part it’s very strong.”

“We’ve had a lot fewer mistakes. Players are a lot more intense and focused on doing it right in practice and in meetings, and in getting it right. The execution in practice in how the compete is better and it carries over to the field. On the field our guys have competed really well. There’s been very little that we’ve given up that has been easy.”

Add Ikard, Hunnicutt to Your Postseason Award Lists

Four individuals associated with the OU football program have recently made the cut for a variety of awards, including head coach Bob Stoops, cornerback Aaron Colvin, center Gabe Ikard and kicker Michael Hunnicutt.

Stoops is listed on the watch list for the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award, while Colvin is a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award presented annually to the nation’s top defensive back.  

While those honors are all prestigious, Ikard has already joined some elite company. He was recently named one of 16 winners of the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Awards and a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, awarded to the best scholar-athlete in the nation. In other words, Ikard is in elite company and he’ll represent the Sooners amid some star-studded company in the Big Apple. Ikard and the other honorees will travel to New York City for the 56th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 10 at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Among the honorees at that event will be University of Oklahoma Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione has been named the 2013 recipient of the John L. Toner Award. The Toner Award is presented annually by the NFF to an athletic director who has demonstrated superior administrative abilities and shown outstanding dedication to college athletics and particularly college football. In addition, former OU linebacker Rod Shoate will be posthumously indicated into the College Football Hall of Fame that evening.

Ikard will receive an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship, and one will be named the recipient of the Campbell Trophy. Ikard was also recently named a midseason All-American by USA Today, Sports Illustrated and CBSSports.com.

“It is one of those things, I have always taken academics very seriously and Coach Stoops has been really supportive of what I have done and constantly preaches the importance of taking care of your business off the field, Ikard told Jack Arute and Rick Neuheisel on SiriusXM College Nation earlier today. “I just have been fortunate to go to a great university, have some great teachers and pull out some good grades.”

Today, the Sooners added one more postseason awards candidate to that stellar list as K Michael Hunnicutt was named a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, awarded to the nation’s best placekicker. This season, Hunnicutt has connected on 16 of 18 field goals, giving him an 88.9 percentage, the nation’s third-highest mark (minimum 15 attempts).

Three finalists for the award will be announced on Nov. 25 and honored at the 22nd annual Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Awards Banquet on Dec. 10 in West Palm Beach, Fla. The winner will be announced live on ESPN at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Thursday, Dec. 12.

Hunnicutt is also a midseason All-America pick by Sports Illustrated and CBSSports.com.

Stoops Knows The Health Hazards of Coaching All Too Well

It was a tough weekend for NFL head coaches. Denver’s John Fox was hospitalized for an apparent heart attack on Saturday, while Houston head coach Gary Kubiak was taken off the field on a stretcher after collapsing on the field at halftime.

“I just encourage people to find the balance,” Stoops said. “I think it’s important to get checked routinely. I have a bad history health-wise. I lost my father at 54 years old on the sidelines after a game. I know the stresses of it. I’m checked by my doctor routinely. I’ve got a lot of issues that I’ve got to manage.

“My guys (assistant coaches) know my philosophy. I don’t tell them when but let’s make sure we’re smart about it. Do what you need to, make sure our plan is what it needs to be, but don’t guard your desk just to guard it. Make sure you’re productive and I think we all try and do that. There’s a comfort level with different coaches. Some coaches say ‘Hey I know what I want and I’m done’ and some second-guess it and want to watch it a little more. You have to do what you feel is right.

“It’s different for everybody. Everybody is a little different on whether they feel they are in the right place when they go home and when I see my players I know this is exactly what I want done and this is what they’re going to understand and this is what we’re going to practice and we’re in good shape. Again, it’s always a little different for everybody. I’ll be honest, from week to week it’s a little different with who you’re playing and how long it takes you to feel in the right place.”

Stoops acknowledges that the pressures of coaching come with the job, but he said it is important for coaches to utilize the resources available to them.

“There is no getting around it; it’s part of the job,” Stoops said. “The stress of it, the way we push ourselves, whether it be the lack of sleep or the lack of eating, the daily grind of trying to find ways to improve and push your team but it is part of what we do. I just encourage all coaches to be sure you’re using the medical staffs that we are all around as much as we are able to.”

Déjà vu - Trey Franks Returns to Offense

After spending some time working at defensive back, redshirt junior Trey Franks is now back on the offensive side of the ball in addition to his work on the coverage units.

Co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said he asked Franks if he would like to play offense again, and Franks agreed. According to Norvell, the decision was made in order to help the team get the most from the current roster.

“We’re just trying to squeeze everybody out of this roster, anybody that can help us in any way,” Norvell said. “Trey (Franks) has played a lot of football on offense at wideout. He wanted to try defense and he went and tried it and we can use him over here and he can do a lot of things. He’s played a lot of football. You look back a few years ago at some different games we’re playing and he’s in there a bunch showing those young guys how to do it. He’s got a lot of experience and another year left of eligibility, so we’re just trying to use him.”

Fellow wide receiver Shepard said Franks can utilize his best attribute playing on offense.

“He’s bringing speed,” Shepard explained. "He’s a really speedy guy and he has good hands, too. He has a knack for the ball and it’s great having him there, getting open.”

Quarterback Blake Bell also said it is nice to have Franks back at the wide receiver position.

“I remember coming here and throwing to him freshman year when he first came here as a receiver and I would love throwing to him just because he’s so fast,” Bell said. “You can kind of throw it out there and he might just run under it so obviously bringing him back and throwing in some go-balls and posts and stuff and getting on the same page and hooking up with him a little bit. It’s always nice as a quarterback having one of those guys out there.”

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