Seven hundred seventy-eight yards. It’s still frustrating and disappointing for Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops to talk about.
West Virginia ran 82 plays for 778 yards in last year’s wild 50-49 win for the Sooners where defense sure looked optional and not mandatory.
What was it about that trip to Morgantown that stood out? When OU utilized the 4-0-7 defense with Julian Wilson expected to play middle linebacker? Or Tavon Austin looking like he was strolling through the park on his way to 21 carries for 344 yards and two touchdowns?
Wilson, a natural nickelback and safety, said the 4-0-7 was never by design. It sort of just happened right there in the middle of the game.
“When it happened it was mid-play,” Wilson said. “It was like, ‘Julian, go in the box!’ I was like, ‘What? What am I supposed to do?’ I just didn’t know.
“In between them scoring or us getting a stop, I was going to the sidelines and trying to listen to coach (Tim) Kish and coach (Mike) Stoops tell me everything. It really was just crazy.”
Nobody will ever say that was a good thing, but it was the catalyst for Mike Stoops opening his eyes and trying to change the defense heading into this season.
The OU defense was a lot more reactive last season and allowed the offense to dictate what was going on. In the first game of the season, the Sooners were flying to the ball. It was OU making the plays, and it was OU keeping ULM guessing in the 34-0 victory.
“It was a learning experience in a lot of ways,” said Stoops about last year’s game. “Hopefully we can build upon a defense that can last and can still be aggressive and sound and be able to create indecision in the quarterbacks’ mind constantly.
“I think if there’s one thing we did well this weekend was we kept the quarterback off balance all night, and I don’t think they really felt comfortable where the pressure was coming from. You’ve got to make the quarterback work continuously or make their sideline work.”
OU and West Virginia will meet again 6 p.m. CST Saturday on FOX and nobody is expecting a 50-49 shootout.
The Sooners defense suffered big-time lumps against the Mountaineers. The change became about angles and leverage, and Saturday will show if those adjustments have panned out.
“When you get run over like that, we didn’t want to be stubborn, and we had to make some changes to create better angles of attack and better leverage on the football,” Stoops said. “We’ve got to get faster, smaller people on the field. You don’t want to be playing with a ton of big guys when they don’t have a tight end in the game.”
Wilson said he is excited for Saturday. There won’t be anybody telling him to go play middle linebacker in the middle of a drive. It’s going to be different. He knows what he has to do.
Wilson said he hasn’t watched last year’s game too much. He said it’s in the past and time to move on, and it’s something him and the rest of the OU defense plans to do this weekend. But they also haven’t forgotten.
“It hurt. I’m not going to lie,” senior cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “For us to give up those kind of numbers to a team like that. As far as the defense, especially here at the University of Oklahoma, it’s not acceptable.
“We had to move forward from last year. This year we remember what happened last year, and we will not forget it.”