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. "Nothing,” Stoops told him. "We’re going to get our dot-dot-dot kicked.” That’s not what Snyder wanted to hear, but it was the truth. And so is this. McCoy is an NFL defensive tackle still playing the campus game. Adrian Taylor is a solid sidekick. OU has more difference-maker defensive ends than some programs have in a decade. 3. Be physical. "Are you tackling, playing good football?” Stoops asks. Again, these Sooners have passed the early exams. So OU seems capable of winning this game with defense, and truth is, even when Bradford returns, that might have to continue for championship hopes to remain. The abundance of 2008 is gone. No Jermaine Gresham. No Juaquin Iglesias. No Phil Loadholt or Jon Cooper or Duke Robinson. A healthy Bradford will help immensely. It will not turn the Sooner offense into a juggernaut. The potential juggernaut is on the other side of the ball. "I’d love to be called one of the great Oklahoma defenses,” said one of those doberman defensive ends, Auston English. "That would be awesome. But if we want to be a great defense, we’re going to have to go on the road and play great defense.” Miami and quarterback Jacory Harris were squashed in the monsoon at Virginia Tech last week, but they rang up 33 points on Georgia Tech and 38 on Florida State. Shut down the Hurricanes, and this Sooner defense has taken a step toward greatness. Not to mention victory. "At the end of the year, I’m looking at leaving a great legacy of OU defense 2009,” Carter said. That legacy starts with Miami. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.