MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Tulsa coach Todd Graham was on the West Virginia staff in 2001 when Miami beat the Mountaineers 45-3 and displayed what he considers the best defense he’s ever seen. Led by safety Ed Reed, those Hurricanes went 12-0, posted three shutouts and allowed 9.7 points a game.
But two weeks ago, Graham stood in the shadows of OU’s Owen Field after the Sooners blanked Tulsa 45-0 and declared the 2009 Oklahoma defense the equal of those Hurricanes. "Right there with ’em,” Graham said. The Sooners need Graham to be right. Now that Bob Stoops has declared quarterback Sam Bradford out for the Miami game Saturday night at Land Shark Stadium, stark realization settles in. OU must win this game with defense. Landry Jones has been a swell reliever, but asking him and this offense to win a 38-28 game at Miami is fool’s gold. OU-Miami has 17-13, 20-10, 16-14 written all over it. Heck, even with Bradford, this one smelled like a batten-down-the-hatches game. Dig in, defense, and get ready to keep the barbarians at the gate all night long. Tough duty. But this Sooner defense seems up to the task. OU has given up 14 points in three games, two of which have been against prolific offenses, Brigham Young and Tulsa. This defense has a chance to rank with 2000 and 2001 as the best of the Stoops era. "I like how you say that,” Stoops said. "‘Has a chance.’” What he means, of course, is that the Sooners aren’t there yet. But this defense has all the ingredients. G.K. McCoy and doberman pass rushers and a linebacking star in Travis Lewis and a solid secondary. Stoops listed his characteristics of a great defense: 1. Intelligent and experienced. "Don’t make mistakes,” Stoops said. So far, this D qualifies. "That’s a goal of ours,” said safety Quinton Carter. "No busts. Let’s be perfect.” 2. Good up front. Stoops still likes to tell the story from his Kansas State days, when Bill Snyder asked what the Wildcats could do if their defensive tackle was knocked off the line of scrimmage.