OU’s defense needs to play well in Big 12 opener vs. WVU

After a strong defensive effort against Tennessee of the Southeastern Conference, it seemed Oklahoma’s defense had cured the problems of last season and was ready to handle high-octane offenses, like West Virginia, which OU hosts Saturday at 11 a.m.

But the defense lapse against mid-major Tulsa September 19 raised those doubts once again. OU was off last week and coaches were hoping they could right the ship on defense to prevent a loss to the Mountaineers in the Big 12 Conference opener for the Sooners.

Against Tulsa, the OU secondary let TU quarterback Dane Evans complete 34 of 51 passes for 437 yards and four touchdowns – including a hail mary pass to end the first half.

Running back Zack Langer of Tulsa raced through the Sooners for 161 yards on 31 carries while teammate Keyarris Garrett had 14 catches for 189 yards and one touchdown.

Tulsa’s tempo threw off the Sooner defense.

“The spacing and what [Tulsa] does [offensively] and the tempo counts at times,” Stoops said after the TU game. “We have to do a better job in getting in our alignments quicker. There weren’t really busted assignments; there were guys that got beat at coverage at times. A few times [Tulsa] was running on stops and when they broke we were out of position. That’s on us players and coaches, we’ve got to do a better job. Hopefully after watching this game we can find some adjustments that will help us in that way.”

“The tempo bothered us,” said OU Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops. “We couldn’t get our fronts and coverages matched up. The speed was a factor in getting our guys lined up. The speed went faster than they (Tulsa) have gone in the past and we were just lethargic. We just weren’t sharp.

“We had coverages that should’ve stopped them. That’s what’s frustrating. The swing pass with the slant, we can’t be in better calling and we didn’t play it right three times. That’s frustrating for us as coaches with young players, but we’ll learn from that.”

Tulsa ended the first half by scoring with 13 seconds left and then after recovering an onside kick, they hit a pass in the endzone with one second left.

“That was a killer,” said Stoops. “Our players needed to be back there with [Keyarris Garrett]. What’s amazing too is that we practice that play a lot. We finish every Tuesday practice with one of those plays, so I guess we have to do it a few more times. They outran us for a ball and that changes everything.”

Part of the coverage problem was due to the suspension of Jordan Thomas for breaking unspecified team rules. He practiced all week but was suspended the day before the game and a true freshman P.J. Mbanasor took his spot.

“He let the team down. I’m not going to go into it, but that hurt us,” Stoops said. “When you’re the first guy and you get 70 percent of the reps through the week and you’re ready to play, and then Friday you’re not doing what you need to …

“You have a young guy in there that’s only had 35 or 30 percent of the reps and it’s unfair to him and unfair to the team. It’s unfair to everybody. He let us down.”

Evans kept targeting Mbanasor, who was replaced in the third quarter by redshirt freshman Marcus Green.

OU safety Harari Byrd set a career high with 15 tackles. The total is the most by a Sooner defensive back since 2010 (Quinton Carter vs. Texas Tech). Safety Ahmad Thomas had his first sack of his career.

First-year Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery was Baylor’s offensive coordinator last year when the Bears shredded the Sooners in Norman. Montgomery is running Baylor’s offense at Tulsa and OU’s problems don’t bode well for conference play in the pass happy Big 12.

“Baylor’s going be tough to beat,” said Mike Stoops. “They have their own style. Baylor and Tulsa are a mirror image, they’re identical. We’re going to have to find a better way to deal with it. It should have been 38-10 at halftime and then all heck breaks loose. We’re down there with a 1:50 (remaining). You’re going to give up plays, but defense is about an attitude and an edge. Our attention to detail, we’re having problems.”

A no-huddle offense creates problems for the defense.

“It’s hard getting our guys lined up,” Stoops said. “To me, that’s us. We can make all the excuses in the world for them. When you’re not in-tune with the game, you play slower, you think slower, you react slower. Tulsa executed beautifully. That’s a good offensive football team.”

“It’s just how it is in today’s world,” said Bob Stoops. “[Teams] are snapping it that way and they’re barely at the line before they’re snapping the ball again. It’s a fast-paced game and when both teams are doing it there are a lot of snaps. You have to adjust to it.”

On offense, redshirt freshman receiver Mark Andrews caught three passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns against Tulsa. He scored his first touchdown as a Sooner on a 61-yard pass from Baker Mayfield late in the second quarter. The play was the fourth longest OU receiving touchdown against Tulsa in series history, and the second longest of the season for the Sooners.

Andrews got a second TD by catching a 17-yard pass from Mayfield late in the third quarter. Andrews’ 87 receiving yards were a career high.

“It was an awesome feeling,” Andrews said. “I have not been in the back of the end zone in almost two years, so it was a great feeling being able to do that.

“I just saw open space, then I saw a guy closing in on the right, and I just thought to myself just don’t get caught. It was just an incredible feeling.”

Andrews sees his tight end position as a real plus for the offense.

“Tight ends are unique because they are a little bit harder to cover and harder to figure out for the defense,” Andrews said. “Also, working on the blocking will help us throw the ball a lot more.”