MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. —
Forgive the Oklahoma defenders if they seem agitated.
After all, their manhood has been challenged by the Florida Gators, notably quarterback Tim Tebow and linebacker Brandon Spikes, leading into the BCS National Championship.
Tonight at Dolphin Stadium, we’ll learn what constitution this Sooner defense possesses.
"For the lack of respect we’ve been receiving, you have no choice but to have a chip on your shoulder if you have any fire, any competitive spirit,” said linebacker Keenan Clayton. "It’s to a level now where we have to prove a point.
"We need to get back to the old Oklahoma defense and hold it down. And I guarantee you’re going to see a defense you haven’t seen all season.”
But talk — and there’s been a lot of it this week — is cheaper than sand in Miami.
The Sooner defense we’ve seen so far has been erratic, at best.
Sure, many of the outcomes have been decided in the first half, leading to sloppy, unfocused play.
Sure, the offenses of the Big 12 can make many a defense look ridiculous.
Sure, the loss of its leader, middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds, sent the defense into a 2 ½-game tailspin.
But playing like the No. 62-ranked unit won’t get the job done, not tonight against a big-play Gator offense that claims to be as fast as high-speed Internet, plus the boost.
"Our guys recognize the challenge,” said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "They’re all competitive. They’re exposed to all the information out here, how great and insurmountable everything is.
"But in money situations, our guys have been tremendously successful.”
Tonight, the Sooners have the rare opportunity to silence, as safety Nic Harris calls them, "critics and newspaper men,” in the biggest money situation these players have ever partaken.