There’s an old saying that goes, “A win is win.” That is definitely true, but if you’re a Sooner fan, it had to be sickening to see the defense struggle as much as they did to stop the running game against West Virginia. Tavon Austin set a Big 12 record by piling up 572 all-purpose yards (344 rushing, 82 receiving, and 146 kick return yards) on the Sooner defense last week, and looked unstoppable in the second half.
The past two weeks, the Sooner defense has been gashed in the running game, giving up 252 rushing yards to Baylor, and 458 yards to West Virginia. With an Oklahoma State offense that features quite possibly the best running back in the conference in Joseph Randle, the Sooner defense knows that have to step up their play.
“You don’t want to harp on last week but you also have another game ahead of you,” said senior defensive tackle Casey Walker. “If you keep harping on what happened last week, you won’t be prepared for this week. Then at the same time, you don’t want to make the same mistakes as last week for this week’s game.”
Walker added that they will see a very similar offense to what they saw in Morgantown last week, when the Cowboys come into town on Saturday. “We’ll see nine times out of ten, the same offense we saw last week. They [Oklahoma State] will have a bigger more powerful running back.”
During Bob Stoops press conference on Monday, he addressed that the coaching staff will have to make adjustments defensively from what they’ve been doing the past two weeks structure wise. This likely means that the seven defensive back formation will not be in the game plan for Saturday. Many fans voiced their displeasure for the formation, but Walker said he had no idea they were running it until he got on the field.
“I did know anything about it until I was on the field, and I didn’t see Tom Wort. I didn’t know there weren’t any linebackers. It kind of surprised me. I don’t really know what goes on behind me in the secondary because I’m on the line.”
The defensive performance on Saturday hasn’t set well with any of the players or the coaching staff. Walker said the team is very motivated to get back to the kind of defense that Sooner fans are accustomed to seeing.
“Here at Oklahoma it’s a tradition of always winning. You have to have a sense of pride to keep that tradition going and keeping it alive. When we don’t perform, it’s one of those things where we say, man we half to pick it up. Whatever direction we need to go to, we need to go and get there quickly to keep on playing like an Oklahoma defense should.”
For a senior like Walker, Saturday will be a night he will always remember, as he will be playing in his last game at Owen Field. Walker says with the combination of Bedlam being on senior night, the magnitude of the game is much higher.
“By ten, it’s just one of those things where, it’s my last game here on my home field and you want to come out with a win. Also, it’s a payback situation. Last year, they put a mud hole in us, so you try to do the same thing to them or even worse. To do that, we have to all come together and play as a defense.”
The stakes are still very high for the Sooners, as a Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl are still possibilities. But if this team wants to reach those goals, the defensive line play must be a lot better. Giving up 16.4 yards a carry to any player is unacceptable, and both the coaches and players on this team realize that. However, it’s now all about how to resolve the problem. The Sooner defense has been exposed; it’s as simple as that. Adjustments have to be made. If the Sooners continue to get gashed in the running game you can kiss all BCS bowl hopes goodbye.
The Sooners will look to slow down the Cowboys attack on Saturday. A unit that is averaging 216.7 yards a game.