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How Oklahoma got outfoxed at West Virginia

COMMENTARY — Many of OU's defensive struggles against the Mountaineers were a product of a poor scheme, not poor tackling.
by Berry Tramel Published: November 20, 2012

/articleid/3730478/1/pictures/1889690">Photo - OU: West Virginia's Tavon Austin (1) carries the ball for a long gain in the fourth quarter during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma and West Virginia University on Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W. Va., Nov. 17, 2012. OU won, 50-49. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
OU: West Virginia's Tavon Austin (1) carries the ball for a long gain in the fourth quarter during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma and West Virginia University on Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W. Va., Nov. 17, 2012. OU won, 50-49. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Of course, Holgorsen doesn't get an A-plus for moving Austin to tailback. After the game, Holgorsen said Austin should have been moved there four years ago. How about two years ago, when Holgorsen came to Morgantown?

Anyway, OU missed way more tackles on receiver Steadman Bailey than on Austin. With Austin, the Sooners were playing tag. Looked like the backyard when the 8-year-olds try to catch their 11-year-old cousin.

“We're aware in some instances we can do some things better technique wise,” Bob Stoops said, “as well as the positioning of our defenders.”

Here's what he means. The Sooners weren't in position to corral Austin. Modern offenses are designed to get playmakers the ball in open space, usually via short passes. With no linebackers on the field, and seven DBs in pass coverage, West Virginia got Austin the ball in open space merely by handing him the ball. The nearest Sooner defenders were several yards away.

Don't believe it? ESPN Stats & Info estimated that Austin had 22 yards after contact. That means he ran 320 yards before a Sooner laid a hand on him. That's not a tackling problem. That's not a fight-off-your-block problem. That's an alignment problem.

“Our position and leverage on the football was awful,” Mike Stoops said. “It was criminal, the positions we put a lot of those guys in. That's our fault. Just wasn't coached right.”

That's actually refreshing. Good to hear that the responsibility falls where it belongs.

Mike Stoops pointed out that the better Big 12 offenses are on the back end of the OU schedule.

“Sometimes you can get lulled to sleep,” he said. “It's about making adjustments. And certainly West Virginia made a great adjustment getting their best player in space.

“That's something, just feel bad for our players, we didn't have a better answer.”

To paraphrase Sam the Lion, some teams have had some luck with linebackers. Sometimes, the first step to a better answer is admitting your mistake.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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