By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN — Oklahoma desperately needed a shot of energy Saturday night. Its defense was playing well in the first half, but the offense needed a boost. A fumble recovery or an interception could have worked wonders.
It never came. Only coming up with one through three games has been the 16th-ranked Sooners’ shortfall.
“We’ve got to try and concentrate more on that in practice and try and create some drills and get in rush lanes and tip some balls and get some deflections,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “That’s an issue and we’re trying to create some turnovers.”
Something has to be done. The Sooners have defended 183 plays. Strong safety Javon Harris came up with an interception against Florida A&M and two fumbles have been forced with neither ending up in the arms of Sooners.
The current pace would have OU collecting just over four turnovers in a 13-game season. The most glaring reason for the Sooners’ loss to Kansas State was the three turnovers they committed.
Of course, with the current 5-to-1 turnover ratio going against them, a bowl game would likely be out of the question.
So, what has to change?
“It’s a mindset and it’s fundamentals,” defensive lineman David King said. “You have to credit those teams for taking care of the ball. But we have to do a better job of forcing turnovers, whether it’s stripping the ball and forcing fumbles or getting interceptions. It’s something we have to do a better job of practice-wise, ball-hawking, stripping the ball, trying to pick it.”
This isn’t the first time OU’s been down this road. It’s had stretches of one or two games where it didn’t come up with turnovers before. Last season, it didn’t come up with a turnover against Missouri. Then it forced eight and scored four defensive touchdowns in back-to-back games against Ball State and Texas.
The difference between then and now was the Sooners’ offense was struggling to move the ball. It currently is. Setting up some short drives might help change the predicament.
OU coach Bob Stoops acknowledged that the defensive game plan against Kansas State was conservative. It almost totally centered on containing Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein as opposed to attacking him.
There were hardly any blitzes and defensive linemen were more focused on staying in rushing lanes than the kind of pressure that forces quarterbacks to make bad decisions.
“As much as anything, trying to get more pressure. They’re a team that with the way they run the football, they’re a hard team to pressure. With the running quarterback and whatnot, they really kind of relishes it in certain looks and take advantage of it,” Bob Stoops said. “We didn’t get as much as we’d like, but that as much as anything is the key. The other thing is to get more strips and try to knock the ball out as well.”
It will be an emphasis this week and next week as the Sooners prepare to face Texas Tech Oct. 6 in Lubbock, Texas. The pressure will be on the Sooners to force some turnovers.