The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 1, 2013

Sooners defense promising

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — In last year’s season-opener, Oklahoma allowed 427 yards to Texas-El Paso, including 177 yards by Miners running back Nathan Jeffrey.

It would be a sign of some things to come for a Sooners defense that would allow 662 yards to West Virginia and 633 to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, including 516 yards by Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Johnny Manziel.

But it was a different story in a 34-0 shutout of Louisiana-Monroe Saturday, the Sooners’ first shutout since a 52-0 win over Iowa State on Oct. 16, 2010.

The Warhawks, who averaged 432.8 yards and 33.8 points per game last season, managed only 38 yards rushing and 128 yards passing. The longest run was six yards. The longest pass was 14 yards.

“That was one of the better games that we have had in a long, long time,’’ said OU coach Bob Stoops.

The Sooners, Stoops said, carried out their assignments and communicated well.

“We did a great job with all the personnel groupings,’’ Stoops said. “We just moved around a little bit and tried to bring guys in in different ways and put pressure on the quarterback.’’

Stoops, though, didn’t go so far to as to say it was a dramatic turnaround.

“We haven’t done anything dramatic,’’ Stoops said. “Last year we had a lot of good games early ... you guys were bragging on us and then you threw us under the bus.’’

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said “the guys overall played much better.’’ He attributed it to more experience and being more aggressive.

He noted the staff made adjustments, admitting last year he may “have been stubborn to a fault and was slow to adjust.’’

“It’s just one day,’’ Mike Stoops said. “If we have 11 more like this, I’ll be happy.’’

Sophomore defensive end Charles Tapper was one of those significant changes. He saw only limited action a year ago, but his aggressiveness and pressure was singled out by Bob Stoops.

“He’s an excellent player,’’ Stoops said. “We were expecting him to play this way. Hopefully, we’ll keep playing this way. He has a chance to be one of those guys we’re used to having. As a young guy, he’s as good as any of them. We have to keep bringing him along.’’

Linebackers — a subject of controversy a year ago — also were singled out.

There were many other areas that showed promise for the Sooners on Saturday.

 OU rushed for 305 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Damien Williams became the 69th Sooner to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his career (1,012) after gaining 66 yards on 16 carries.

OU did not fumble and the only interception was a ball where the Warhawk defender took the ball away from the Sooner receiver.

Louisiana-Monroe arguably is the weakest opponent on the OU schedule, but it did finish 8-5 last season and went to a bowl. OU will find out more about itself Saturday when the Sooners host West Virginia in the Big 12 opener.

“We’re on track,’’ Bob Stoops said. “I think we will need to get better, of course. The inexperience (players) we had in this game played well. We have some good young players. We have to keep them more polished. The more they play, the more they will grow.’’

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.