OU football: Sooners' defense far from spectacular but made plays when needed
LUBBOCK, Texas — Bob Stoops saw the flag and his heart dropped.
His team having just seized a lead for the first time all day and with a chance to hold Texas Tech to a three-and-out for the first time, he thought linebacker Eric Striker was about to get popped for a high hit on Red Raiders’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
But then the call came in as holding on Texas Tech and Stoops celebrated.
Striker’s sack stood and the Sooners had all the momentum.
“It was a big one when we needed it,” Stoops said.
The Sooners’ defensive performance in a 42-30 win at Texas Tech was far from spectacular or even solid. But OU wound up making plays when they needed to.
Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was clearly still not happy with his defense’s performance.
Oklahoma gave up 393 yards and four touchdowns through the air as the problems that plagued the Sooners in a loss to Baylor the week before kept popping up.
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The Red Raiders, like Baylor, created plenty of space for their wide receivers and Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes did a solid job of getting the ball out quickly and not allowing OU’s pass rush to get to him.
Things got better in the second half, allowing the Sooners to come from behind for the win, but it was far from perfect.
“It was kind of a frustrating day,” Mike Stoops said. “It was just too many mistakes, not playing well enough in the secondary and that’s hard. That’s personal and we’ve got a lot of youth in the secondary, but that’s still our responsibility.
Stoops is OU’s safeties coach and the safeties have been a major part of the struggle recently, with veteran Quentin Hayes starting with a pair of young players — sophomore Ahmad Thomas and freshman Steven Parker — back there as OU spent much of the game in a nickel package.
The first drive of the second half for Tech wasn’t as deflating for the Sooners as Baylor’s the week before but it could’ve been a “here we go again,” moment for the defense.
The Red Raiders came out and scored in a hurry thanks to a 20-yard run and a 47-yard touchdown from Mahomes to Devin Lauderdale that put Tech up 21-7.
Coming off the field after that drive, several of the leaders of the defense — most notably cornerback Zack Sanchez and defensive ends Charles Tapper and Chuka Ndulue — gave impassioned talks to the group.
“It was just time to buckle down,” Sanchez said. “We can’t give them things — gifts like that. We can’t let little mistakes happen like that anymore. It was an attitude thing.
“A couple of guys spoke up and kind of got on each other like, ‘Come on, pick it up. This isn’t us. We need to step up and make plays again.’”
Whether it was the speeches or something else, things got better for the defense and the Sooners’ offense took advantage.
Texas Tech had 319 yards of total offense by the time 1:35 had passed in the second half. They had 167 the rest of the way.
The next two drives led to a punt and a field goal before the Sooners’ took a 28-24 lead early in the fourth and then after a pair of incompletions, Striker came up with his sack.
“We didn’t play as well as we needed to (but) we finally made some plays when we needed to,” Mike Stoops said.