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Game against Missouri a reality check for Sooners' defense

BY TRAVIS HANEY Published: September 25, 2011

— Travis Lewis called it a reality check coming at the perfect time. And Oklahoma's senior linebacker and captain nailed it.

The 38-28 victory against Missouri has shoved the Sooners into a position of late-September self-examination. Yes, a 10-point win has done that.

The facts:

*Center and captain Ben Habern is out for the next month or two after breaking his forearm. Buddy Gabe Ikard will fill in, but will there be a drop-off?

*The Sooners slipped from the top spot in The Associated Press poll, falling to No. 2 behind Louisiana State. LSU took it away more than OU lost it. But, still. Play well enough, you don't drop.

*And then there's the defense. Which was the aberration for the Sooners?

Was it the suffocating, physical attack that restricted Florida State to one fluky touchdown and 27 rushing yards?

Or was it the careless, mistake-ridden effort Saturday against Missouri that allowed the Tigers to finish with 532 total yards, including 263 on the ground.

Henry Josey rushed for 133 yards and a score. Quarterback James Franklin added 103 yards and two scores. When's the last time you recall an OU defense letting two players rush for 100-plus yards in the same game? (OU is still looking that one up.)

It was bad. It wasn't costly; the game was never in doubt. But it was bad. Lewis and his boss, defensive coordinator Brent Venables, did not mind saying as much afterward.

I walked up to Lewis expecting him to be honest, but also put a positive spin on the night. Quite the opposite. Venables was the same way. He said he was “embarrassed to be associated” with the performance.

Like I said, it's not as if OU's miscues ever caused the game to get all that close. Missouri closed the lead to 10 — two scores — with 6:44 to play. But the Sooners responded right back with a touchdown drive.

That was partly what had Lewis in a foul mood, though. He felt as if the offense had to bail out the defense. Maybe that's true. Maybe that's how it goes, though. Perhaps one week the offense needs a pick-me-up, the next week it's the defense. As a coach, you just pray it's not both at the same time — like the fourth quarter at Mizzou last year?

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