NORMAN — Sooners coach Bob Stoops scoffed at the question Monday over whether games like the upcoming one against Baylor were the reason he brought his brother Mike back as defensive coordinator.
“I brought Mike back to coach all games last year, all games the other year, and all games next year,” Stoops said. “Not for any one game.”
Stoops is correct.
But games like next Thursday's in Waco, Texas — against a team that leads the country in total offense by more than 80 yards — are the reason why Oklahoma's defense underwent a makeover in the offseason.
The Sooners went almost exclusively to a three-man front to keep five defensive backs on the field while keeping the linebackers involved in the game.
That wasn't the case last year when linebackers virtually disappeared from the defense as the Sooners struggled to defend the Big 12's — and Texas A&M's — spread offenses late in the season.
Last week, Texas Tech gave OU its first real chance to see how the defense held up against an offense similar to the ones that gave the Sooners fits last year.
The Red Raiders threw for 388 yards on the Sooners but ran for just 72.
“This defense showed what it's really made for,” Sooners safety Gabe Lynn said of the retooled defense's first such test. “We've got some areas we could have done better but for the most part, I felt like we made the plays we needed to make.”
While the styles are similar, though, there's no doubt Baylor presents even more of a challenge.
The passing numbers are similar — Baylor averages less than four yards per game more through the air. The rushing numbers, though, are vastly different.
The Bears are averaging more than 300 rushing yards per game — led by Lache Seastrunk's 124.1 average — to lead the Big 12 and are in the top 10 nationally. Texas Tech, though, is last in the Big 12 in rushing offense.
Baylor will be able to do things offensively that the Sooners haven't seen all year.
“We've got our work to do,” Stoops said, overstating the obvious. “I look at what they've been doing against like opponents, and so it will be challenging.”
The Sooners and Bears have faced three of the same teams thus far — Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia and Kansas.
Oklahoma won those games by a combined 84-26. Baylor outscored those three teams 202-62, and most of those points allowed came in the 73-42 win over West Virginia.
The only team that has come close to slowing Baylor down — Kansas State — still gave up 35 points. The Bears have scored 59 or more points in every other game, scoring at least 70 four times.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said earlier this week that the secret to the Wildcats success — relatively at least — was the play of the front seven defensively.
While the Sooners have been solid up front overall, they've also lost linebacker Corey Nelson and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips to season-ending injuries over the past few weeks. And another linebacker, Frank Shannon, left last week's game early with an injury.
Baylor rushed for just 114 yards in the win over Kansas State.
Only one other team has held the Bears to less than 290 yards rushing — FCS Wofford in a 69-3 Baylor win to start the season.
“They've got a lot of speed,” Lynn said. “They've got a lot of playmakers.
“But we can't let that intimidate us.”
Easier said than done.
Stoops said that there wasn't any grand trick to slowing down the Bears.
“A lot of times, it isn't real complicated,” Stoops said. “It's being able to match up and run with them and cover them and eliminate so many big plays.”
Seastrunk said before the season that he expected to at least get “very close” to winning the Heisman Trophy.
He's lived up to that and might be an even bigger contender if it weren't for the out-of-this-world numbers turned in by teammate Bryce Petty. The Bears' quarterback, Petty has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, throwing for 18 touchdowns and just one interception.
“They spread you out to run it, and then they're gonna play-action pass and find space to throw it,” Stoops said. “He's (Petty) doing it as well as anybody they've had.”
The Bears have scored 25 offensive touchdowns from 25 yards out or more, including 15 that were more than 50 yards. Oklahoma's offense has scored 26 touchdowns all season from any distance.
“You want to play against great teams like Baylor,” Lynn said. “Baylor has a lot of national attention now, with all those points they're putting up and all the playmakers they have, so it would look great for us to come out and really stop all that, so that's our goal.”