Oklahoma football: Defense is now saving games for Sooners

How’s this for a twist of fate? If it weren’t for the Oklahoma football defense, the Sooners could easily be 1-3 right now.

Who would have ever imagined three years ago that the Sooners’ defensive performance would be the difference maker in OU’s winning way as opposed to its talent-laden offense, which at the present time is badly leaking oil? Believe it or not, that’s where we’re at four games into the 2021 season.

In past seasons, the high-powered Oklahoma offense was seemingly able to score at will, and that covered up much of the Sooner defensive struggles in allowing opponents to stay in games. This year, though, it has been the Oklahoma defense that has made big stops late in games that has either preserved a Sooner victory or, like in the game with West Virginia on Saturday, shut down a potential West Virginia scoring drive and got the ball back for the OU offense, which in turn mounted a game-winning, 80-yard scoring drive.

“It was great,” said quarterback Spencer Rattler, speaking about the defense in Oklahoma’s postgame interview session.

“They’ve always come through for us, especially in these first four games. They’ve played really well and bring a lot of energy. We need to do that on the offensive side too.”

After allowing a 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive by West Virginia to start the game on Saturday, the OU defense settled in and only allowed 151 offensive yards the rest of the game and only two third-down conversions in 11 tries after the opening scoring drive.

Before Saturday, West Virginia was averaging 142.0 rushing yards per game. The Sooner defensive front held the Mountaineers to 47 rushing yards and just 226 total offensive yards. West Virginia averaged under four yards per play. That would not have been the case with previous Oklahoma defenses.

The Sooners gave up 35 points in the season-opening win over Tulane, but haven’t yielded more than 16 points in the past three games. OU’s 16.0 scoring defense average ranks first in the Big 12 and tied for 20th among FBS teams. The Sooners are currently 26th nationally and second in the Big 12 in total defense, allowing an average of 296.0 yards per game.

At the end of the day, we’re Oklahoma,” said junior linebacker Nik Bonitto after the West Virginia game. “We’re taking everybody’s best shot. No game is — we’re gonna walk in and whoop everybody by 30. This is everyone’s Super Bowl when we play them.”

Four games into the 2021 Oklahoma football schedule, there is plenty of finger pointing. One thing has become clear, though. The Sooner defense is no longer the liability that it was. It has become the team’s best asset.