OU Football Point After: Sooners ‘Bring the Wood’ with Opportunistic Defense


The last time the OU football team donned its home alternate “Bring the Wood” uniforms, the defense was butchered for 48 points and the Sooner offense was silenced in s 34-point loss to Baylor.

West Virginia came into Saturday’s contest against 15th-ranked Oklahoma leading the nation in fewest points allowed and turnover margin, but it was the Sooners who turned up the defensive pressure, forcing five costly Mountaineer turnovers and quarterback Baker Mayfield and the OU offense took care of the rest in handing the 23rd-ranked Mountain Men a 44-24 thrashing and their first defeat of the season.

Oct 3, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners cornerback Jordan Thomas (7) tackles West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Shelton Gibson (1) in the fourth quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The same Sooner defense that allowed 603 yards of total offense and 427 passing yards to Tulsa two weeks ago tightened things up considerably in yielding 369 total offensive yards and just 173 passing yards against West Virginia, and recorded seven sacks of Mountaineer quarterback Skyler Howard.

Meanwhile the OU offense picked apart a good Mountaineer pass defense (17th best in the country coming into Saturday’s game) to the tune of 320 yards and three Mayfield touchdown passes, giving him 13 for the season.

In its first three games, all against nonconference opponents, the Oklahoma defense had recorded just two takeaways (1 fumble recovery and one interception). For the past two weeks in practice, the Sooner coaches had emphasized the need to become more physical in order to force opponents into more mistakes and create more turnovers.

“We needed to come out and be tough, be more physical and be the better team,” said Sooner captain and All-Big 12 linebacker Eric Striker after West Virginia game in an article posted on the OU athletics website.

And tough and physical they were. The five turnovers created by the Sooner defense on Saturday amounted to two more than West Virginia had committed in its first three games before facing Oklahoma.

Oct 3, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon (25) runs for a touchdown against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the second quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Moreover, the Mountaineers were allowing just 7.7 points per game, best in the nation coming into the game with Oklahoma. West Virginia had yielded just 23 total points to its opponents in the first three games. The Sooner scored 24 points in the first half on Saturday.

These were the high points from the Sooners 93rd home victory under head coach Bob Stoops and the 17th in 21 games at home in the Stoops’ era in Norman against ranked opponents. But the Sooners’ fourth victory of the season was not as easy as the final score might indicate. The final stats also revealed some troubling areas that could become big problems going forward if not acknowledged and addressed.

Twenty-three penalties were called in the game, and Oklahoma was flagged for 12 of them for 134 yards. Eight of those penalties were called on the Sooner defensive unit, the price for being more aggressive, which to a certain extent the OU coaches were willing to pay. On one second-quarter drive, Oklahoma was whistled five times for a loss of 45 total yards.

Through four games, the Sooners trail only Baylor in averaging the most penalty yards in the Big 12. This is not something that is sustainable if OU is going to remain in contention for the conference crown.

Another area of concern is third-down conversion rate. Oklahoma converted on just 2 of 11 third-down tries against West Virginia. Fortunately, the number of big plays generated by the Sooner offense on earlier downs negated the poor third-down performance, at least in this game.

For the season, however, OU is converting just 38 percent of its third-down opportunities. Only Texas, Oklahoma’s next opponent, has a worse third-down conversion rate than the 4-0 Sooners, and the Longhorns have won only one of five games this season.

All in all, though, OU’s win over West Virginia came with a solid overall performance in most all phases of the game. The offense has been humming along at a relatively high clip since the fourth quarter of the Tennessee game, and the defense appears to have regained some of the swagger and toughness that was missing in OU’s win two weeks ago over Tulsa.

All good signs as the Sooners set their sites on the next date on the calendar: the annual showdown with archrival Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.