Sooners reminded of worst defensive game in West Virginia
SEP 05, 2013 3:22p ET
Odd timing that after its first shutout since October of 2010 comes with a kidney punch of a reminder of a defense that was exposed and undone. A celebration tempered by harsh memories.
The Sooners shut out ULM last Saturday, 34-0, and up next is West Virginia, the team that likely forced Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and his staff to look at itself in a different way.
"It happens to everyone," OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said of that Morgantown debacle. "Football is a very humbling game. As good as we were the other night (vs. ULM), we were really bad that night (vs. West Virginia). It's usually somewhere in between."
Usually in between because there's a zip code of difference between what ULM couldn't do and what West Virginia did last November when the Mountaineers totaled a hand-to-the-side-of-the-face 778 yards. Running back Tavon Austin had 572 all-purpose yards, 344 on the ground.
Since that game, OU has hired new defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery and featured a 3-3-5 defense, relying more on the linebacker spot than at any point last season.
So, while the Sooners were happy to talk about the ULM game where the Warhawks managed just nine first downs and 166 total yards, they couldn't exactly distance themselves from a season ago.
"We definitely still think about last year," safety Gabe Lynn said. "It was just horrible on our part."
And as bad the Sooners were last year, they won the game.
As good as they were last week, there are still a lot of questions.
It's nearly impossible for the OU defense to move ahead without looking behind with West Virginia coming to town. This is a defense that lost five defensive linemen from a season ago and was down two starters in the first game – Chuka Ndulue to a one-game suspension and Mike Onuoha with an injured shoulder.
Yet, here they were against ULM active and efficient. Charles Tapper was good. Jordan Phillips was good, but can they be that good against WVU?
"Jordan can be so much better," Mike Stoops said. "He can be so much more of a dominating player as he continues to grow. We're starting to get guys who are hungry to get on the field. That's good. It creates competition and good work habits and better play. A lot of guys aren't self-motivated, they need to be motivated by competition."
The competition has come in the form of a lot of new bodies and a lot of lack of experience. Same goes for the West Virginia offense.
As great as it was a season ago on offense, featuring Austin and Geno Smith at quarterback, it's changed in 2013. The Mountaineers still have the same ideals but don't have the same talent. They struggled a week ago in a 24-17 win against William & Mary. Bob Stoops said West Virginia will still run its, "Ball plays," but they are running them with far less talent.
Now we get to see if the Sooner defense has more talent than people thought.
"It was a learning experience in a lot of ways," Mike Stoops said of last year's loss to West Virginia. "Hopefully we can build upon a defense that can be sound."
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK
+ SHOW COMMENTS +