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OU football: Defense has been under the gun

The Sooners' defense had three poor games, bringing a lot of criticism toward defensive coordinator Brent Venables and secondary coach Willie Martinez. The Insight Bowl couldaffect that.
By TRAVIS HANEY. Staff Writer, thaney@opubco.com Published: December 27, 2011
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TEMPE, Ariz. — Oklahoma's defense was squarely under the microscope when the season began. The perception was that it would make or break a run at the school's first national championship in a decade.

Turned out to be true, didn't it?

No one unit for the Sooners is removed from blame in the 9-3 season that will end Friday night with the Insight Bowl against Iowa, but the numbers from those three losses are difficult to skirt in a dissection of OU's 2011.

The defense had exceptional moments, but there were at least three nights it would prefer to forget.

Texas Tech ran up more yards, 572, than any team ever had against OU, winning 41-38 in Norman to end the Sooners' 39-game home win streak. Baylor then broke the record less than a month later, going for 616 yards in the 45-38 victory in Waco.

Oklahoma State seized control of Bedlam thanks in large part to turnovers, but the Cowboys still managed 495 yards in the 44-10 blowout.

Put it all together, and the Sooners gave up 1,683 yards and 130 points in the losses.

The defense was instrumental in some of the bigger wins, against Florida State and Texas and Kansas State, but it was even more destructive in the losses, big plays absolutely killing OU in defeat.

“I don't think we were as good as we thought we were, but, I don't know, maybe not as bad as people seem to think,” junior cornerback Demontre Hurst said. “I'd give us a below-average (grade), probably right at a ‘C' — just because in the three losses, we gave up tremendous amounts of passing yards. That's unacceptable.

“We gave up a lot of big plays. We kind of gave the games away. Being in the secondary, being a leader in the secondary, it's hard to take. It's not always the secondary, of course; it's everyone on defense.”

And that includes the coaching staff. Of anyone, coordinator Brent Venables and secondary coach Willie Martinez have taken the brunt of the heat in recent weeks, largely due to those numbers listed above.

That's how it goes. Yardage is surrendered, games are lost, coaches are criticized — to the point that some factions of fans want them fired.

The threat of losing your job is, well, part of the job.

“I don't really expose myself to it,” Venables said, referring to the venting and vitriol. “We're hard enough on ourselves as it is.”

Venables called it “Bill Snyder 101,” to keep your head down and continue working. That's what he drew from the old-school, insular Kansas State coach as a player, graduate assistant and first-time assistant coach. Venables was in Manhattan from 1989-1998.

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After a season in which Oklahoma allowed an average of 561 yards and 43 points in its three losses — to Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State — Sooners coordinator Brent Venables and his staff are again taking fire from fans. Here's a look at what Venables' defenses have done since he took control in 2004.

2004

Total defense rank: 13

Yards per game: 299

Scoring defense rank: 11

Points per game: 16.8

2005

Total defense rank: 13

Yards per game: 306.67

Scoring defense rank: 37

Points per game: 23.1

2006

Total defense rank: 16

Yards per game: 287.14

Scoring defense rank: 19

Points per game: 17.3

2007

Total defense rank: 26

Yards per game: 338.36

Scoring defense rank: 19

Points per game: 20.3

2008

Total defense rank: 68

Yards per game: 367.71

Scoring defense rank: 58

Points per game: 24.50

2009

Total defense rank: 8

Yards per game: 272.62

Scoring defense rank: 7

Points per game: 14.54

2010

Total defense rank: 53

Yards per game: 361.86

Scoring defense rank: 33

Points per game: 21.79

2011 (minus bowl)

Total defense rank: 61

Yards per game: 383.17

Scoring defense rank: 36

Points per game: 22.75

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