Oklahoma's defense made it through the second week of November and had given up more than 21 points just twice. The Sooners lost both games, but any good Big 12 offense can feel good about its chances if its defense gives up just 24 and 30 points, especially at home.
New defensive coordinator Mike Stoops looked like he'd made an impact, but after beating Iowa State in Ames, the streak of strong defensive play from the Sooners stopped. It survived 34 points from Baylor and big plays late from quarterback Landry Jones helped the Sooners beat West Virginia and rival Oklahoma State despite giving up 49 and 48 points, respectively.
Jones' heroics overshadowed the defensive struggles a bit, but there was no hiding from an embarrassing 41-13 blowout loss at the hand of ex-Big 12 rival Texas A&M, lowlighted by 229 rushing yards and 287 passing yards from Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, who also accounted for four touchdowns.
"You can’t give up that many yards and that many points and expect to win. We’ve got to find ways to be better against those kinds of teams. That’s what we’re concentrating on [this spring]," Stoops said. "A lot of teams you can go out there and it doesn’t matter what you play, you can beat a lot of teams, but when you go up against the top-level teams, you’ve got to come up with something a little different and variations and that’s where we came up short, those kinds of games."
There's no excusing the points, but how much of those struggles were the Sooners playing poorly, and how much of it was going head-to-head with four teams that ranked in the top 10 in total offense and scoring offense?
"Our plan was off against Tavon Austin, they kind of caught us with our pants down, and we didn’t have really an answer. Structrually, you’ve got to be better than that," Stoops said. "A&M, I think that was probably one of the hardest teams we’ve had to defend here ever, maybe."
Austin spent almost all his time at West Virginia as a receiver, but the Mountaineers moved him to running back against the Sooners. He promptly racked up a school-record 344 rushing yards and had 572 all-purpose yards, seven short of the NCAA record. Against the Aggies, the Sooners' pass rush went absent and the linebackers and secondary consistently lost contain on Manziel, who turned broken plays into big plays on countless occasions in the Aggies' romp.
"Those three teams average more than 550 yards a game so that’s their average. You’ve got to look at it, but certainly we want to have our expectations," Stoops said of the Aggies, Cowboys and Mountaineers. "It’s a little bit of us not being good enough schematically and position by positon. When you get stressed like that when you play good teams, you get stressed across the board, and we have to be better than we were a year ago, and that’s individually and schematically."