NORMAN — Tavon Austin? Gone. Geno Smith? Gone. Stedman Bailey? Gone.
West Virginia is in town for a Saturday night showdown against the Sooners, but the Mountaineers are but a shadow of the crew that last November inflicted the worst beating ever on an OU defense.
But not all the perpetrators are missing. The Brothers Stoops are here.
And all the West Virginia talk this week is showing that the OU defense that night 10 months ago was even worse than we thought. Time stings all wounds.
You know the numbers — 778 total yards for West Virginia; 344 rushing yards for Austin; seven touchdowns in the final 40 minutes for the Mountaineers.
But not until now are we realizing the full absurdity.
OU safety Julian Wilson this week related the madness of that trip to Morgantown, when the Sooners disdained the use of linebackers.
“I feel like I'll have a way better game this year because I'll be playing a position that I know,” Wilson said. “It won't be a deal in the middle of a play I'm told, ‘Julian, you gotta play middle linebacker.' This year, I'll know what to do.”
What? Julian Wilson a middle linebacker? Middle of the play?
“I was surprised,” Wilson said. “When it happened it was mid play. It was like, ‘Julian, go in the box!' I was like, ‘What? What am I supposed to do?' I just didn't know then. In between them scoring or us getting a stop, I was going to the sidelines and trying to listen to Coach (Tim) Kish and Coach Mike (Stoops) tell me everything. It was really just crazy.”
That's one word for it.
If John Blake's staff had come up with such a stunt, he would have been roasted. Stoops gets a little pass because, well, 14 years of solid football counts for something.
But geez, to use a Stoops word. That defensive gameplan, that four-linemen, seven-back alignment that worked little against Baylor and none at all against West Virginia, made us wonder if Mike Stoops had lost his marbles.
Bob Stoops in his later days has taken to throwing people under the bus — four firings the past two offseasons after zero his first 13 years — but Stoops is the Defiant One when it comes to little brother. Bob and Mike are shackled at the ankles.
“You have to understand, I'm part of the (game) plan,” Bob Stoops said. “I agree to the plan.”
So 190-pound Julian Wilson at middle linebacker against certain formations, trying to run through a 300-pound lineman to head off Tavon Austin? Bob Stoops accepts responsibility. Big Blame Bob.
The defensive debacle down the stretch last season — Baylor, West Virginia, Bedlam, Johnny Football — prompted major changes. Heavy reliance on a three-man front, for the first time in the Stoops era. A commitment to linebackers, who shined last Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe's spread.
But make no mistake. West Virginia was the catalyst. Dana Holgorsen won that chess match decisively. The Sooners had no clue that Austin would move to tailback and had no clue once they realized he had.
Which brings us to the best news for the Sooners. There's no Tavon Austin to move to tailback Saturday night, at least none that we know of.
And this we know. Whatever Mike Stoops has cooked up for the Mountaineers has been endorsed by Big Brother Bob.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 THE NUMBERS
Some crazy numbers came out of OU's defensive performance against West Virginia last season:
3: Runs by WVU tailback Tavon Austin longer than 50 yards — 74, 56 and 54. He finished with 344 yards on 21 carries.
4: West Virginia drives of 90 yards or longer. The Mountaineers also had drives of 78 and 85 yards.
9.5: Average gain per play for West Virginia — 778 yards on 82 snaps; 9.7 yards per run, 9.1 yards per pass. No Sooner defense ever has given up so many yards.
13: Catches for WVU's Steadman Bailey, for 205 yards and four touchdowns