The Red River Showdown showcases one of the greatest rivalries in all of college football. This game is littered with all of the goodies that you would expect in a major rivalry. In fact, today’s installment provided one of the best in the history of the game. But, this game once again gives evidence of another lackluster defensive performance. The Texas Longhorns kicked a 40-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining to defeat Oklahoma 48-45. The defensive performance, or lack thereof, leaves the collective Sooner nation scratching their heads. Because of that, sooner or later a change on defense is needed at Oklahoma.
Too Little, Too Late
Absent a give up two play drive at the end of the first half, Texas scored on seven of their first eight possessions. That spurred a big 45-24 lead for the Longhorns early in the fourth quarter of play. However, with the help of three consecutive stops, the Sooners were able to tie the score at 45 with just over two and a half minutes to go. But, alas, Oklahoma was not able to come up with a stop to give the offense a chance.
Third down and red zone defense has been a struggle for the Sooners this season. That trend continued today as Texas converted eight of 16 third and fourth down conversions on the day. More importantly, the Longhorns were perfect in the red zone against the Sooner defense. Oklahoma was dead last in the country in red zone defense coming into the game. That wouldn’t improve as the Longhorns were five for five which now makes 21 attempts with 21 scores against.
Oklahoma has maintained a trend of not making the plays that it needs to on defense. The defense has not been complimentary of the offense over the last few years. Now, Baker Mayfield last year, and Kyler Murray has been able to cover for that inefficiency for the most part. However, in the last two games, the Sooners have played against ranked foes they have scored a total of 93 points and lost both.
Now, the Big 12 is certainly not known for its defense. But, still, in scoring 45 points, a team with Oklahoma’s rich history should win that football game every time. The Sooners now will enjoy a bye week before traveling to Fort Worth to face TCU. Before that, Oklahoma must do some soul searching with the players on the field and with the staff as well.
What needs to change?
Before talking about what needs to change, first, we need to look at where the problem areas are. Unfortunately, that list appears to be long, at first glance. In a pass-happy, deep scoring league having a defensive unit that compliments one another is paramount to success. However, that is not happening in Norman.
The Sooners have not been able to consistently apply pressure on the quarterback. This has caused the smallish Sooner defensive backs to struggle on the back end. Size does indeed matter here as the trio of Parnell Motley, Tre Norwood, and Tre Brown are all under six foot. The lack of pressure was evident against Texas as Sam Ehlinger was able to sit back in the pocket and take his time to pick out his taller receivers. To add insult to serious injury, Oklahoma has been an extremely poor tackling team all year.
Unfortunately, things could get worse before they get better. Oklahoma still faces better offensive teams than it has to this point in the season. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia will provide considerable challenges for this Sooner defense. With the goals of a fourth straight Big 12 championship still in sight, defensive improvement is a must.
Last year, I wrote that it was time for Oklahoma to part ways with defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Lincoln Riley, instead, decided to put more of the pressure of lack of talent and making plays on the players. But, at this point, that is starting to point at insanity. Over the past few years, the Sooners have continued to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Oklahoma has increased its talent on defense in 2018, but have experienced the same results. You have to believe that common denominator has been Stoops. If the Sooners want to compete for a national championship, they must improve. And, to improve it’s time to bring someone else in to lead this defense. Sometimes there is addition by subtraction. Stoops has more than his share of chances and a change is certainly needed.