Oklahoma football: Defense stumbled, but isn’t back to square one

LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 22: Patrick Mahomes II
LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 22: Patrick Mahomes II /

After two weeks of building some confidence, some old, harsh Oklahoma football realities set in last Saturday night in Lubbock.

This Sooners’ defense still has problems, especially defending the pass, and the burden still resides on another historical OU offense to get the team back to the College Football Playoff. It was a stark contrast to other playoff contenders like Alabama – which shut out rival LSU 29-0 or Michigan – which basically made Penn State tap out in a 49-7 victory.

It seemed like the kind of night where Lubbock voodoo might be too much to overcome. Every close call seemed to go against the Sooners and every ball seemed to bounce the direction of the Red Raiders. The crowd was as raucous as one could expect for a night game on the high plains, but the Sooners overcame all of that. That’s something the 2002 Texas Longhorns couldn’t say, or the 2007 Oklahoma Sooners. It’s also the same place that ended the 2008 Texas Longhrons’ chances at a National Title.

Despite an early 14-0 turnover on two uncharacteristic Kyler Murray interceptions, big penalty after big penalty, giving up 360 yards through the air and 46 points overall, the Sooners still came away with a win and kept their College Football Playoff hopes alive.

Lincoln Riley said after the game that the defense wasn’t as bad as the score indicated and all in all he was right. The Sooners held Texas Tech to 3-of-13 on third down, forced a critical red zone field goal and came up with what went down as the game-deciding play when Robert Barnes intercepted a Tech two-point conversion attempt and ran it back 100 yards for two points of his own.

The Sooners were close to another critical interception in the end zone, but Parnell Motley’s pick was called back on an  inexplicable pass interference call.

The Red Raiders’ offense was certainly rolling at points, but the game never felt as helpless as the  first three quarters of the Red River Rivalry, nor anywhere near as bad as things got two years ago in the same stadium in a similar situation when OU and Texas Tech smashed NCAA records in a narrow 66-59 OU win.

It’s a small step forward for an Oklahoma defense that is still trying to get better, but with a pair of home games left against Oklahoma State and Kansas, there is still time to improve before a potential top 10 matchup against West Virginia in the season finale and earn some much-needed style points along the way.