SOONER DEFENSE NEEDS MORE TAKEAWAYS
When Oklahoma's defense has played its best this season, it has forced turnovers by opponents.
That's an area where the Sooners have struggled over their past three games, beginning with an Oct. 27 home loss to Notre Dame.
Over this stretch, the Sooners only have one takeaway — a fourth-quarter interception by junior safety Tony Jefferson.
Last week, Oklahoma defensive backs had their hands on a few Baylor passes but failed to intercept one.
“For us, it's about getting turnovers ... in the past three weeks, we haven't really gotten any,” said senior safety Javon Harris. “We're gonna focus on really executing our game plan, and hopefully the ball will come to us.”
The current stretch is reminiscent of the season's first three games, during which a Harris interception against Florida A&M was the Sooners' only takeaway. Like this recent three-game stretch, OU went 2-1, losing 24-19 at home to Kansas State on Sept. 22.
Those OU turnover struggles ended in the Sooners' fourth game, when the defense intercepted three passes at Texas Tech.
Saturday, the Sooners play at West Virginia, which, despite its four-game losing streak, has an offense built around a prolific passing attack like Texas Tech's.
“It's just about making plays,” Harris said. “A lot of balls are being thrown the past few weeks, really wide outside ... really going at the corners and trying to get deep balls ... really trying to stay away from the middle, from what I've noticed.
“They can't stay away from us too long, so hopefully we get some more chances to get turnovers.”
NORVELL: QUICK STARTS IMPORTANT ON THE ROAD
Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell is pleased with how well the Sooners performed on their first two drives last weekend against Baylor, and said a similar quick start will be important Saturday against West Virginia.
“It's important, especially on the road, to start well,” Norvell said. “You've got a hostile crowd; it's a night game and they've been looking forward to this game.
“When we can run the ball and have good mix on our first drive, and go down and score a touchdown in the red zone, that really sets our team off with a lot of confidence. Especially knowing you've got an explosive team you're playing against that you're gonna have your hands full with all day.”
The Sooners scored touchdowns on each of their first two drives in a 42-34 win over the Bears.
“To drive the ball 12, 14 plays means a lot of people are doing things right,” he said. “We've got to continue to do that. We'd like to mix some big plays in there to get a big chunk, a big pass, a big run, but to be able to execute play after play after play on a long drive to score … that was impressive and we've got to continue to do that.”
IKARD LEADS 14 SOONERS ON ACADEMIC ALL-BIG 12 TEAM
Fourteen Oklahoma football players were named to the 2012 Academic All-Big 12 team, the conference announced Thursday.
Eleven Sooners made the first team, and three were second teamers.
Junior center Gabe Ikard was one of just three Big 12 players named to the team with a 4.0 grade-point average.
Other first-team members are: quarterback Blake Bell, linebacker Jaydan Bird, linebacker Daniel Franklin, kicker Michael Hunnicutt, offensive lineman Lane Johnson, defensive lineman David King, defensive lineman Jamarkus McFarland, fullback Trey Millard, defensive back Julian Wilson and offensive lineman Austin Woods.
Second-team members from OU were lineman Bronson Irwin, defensive back Gabe Lynn and linebacker Corey Nelson.
Also Thursday, Ikard was named as one of eight finalists for the 2012 Wuerffel Trophy, awarded annually to the college football player who best combines community service, academic achievement and athletic prowess.
The award is presented by the All Sports Association in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and named after former Florida quarterback and 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel.
West Virginia radio analyst Dwight Wallace, on the Mountaineers' last few games:
“The last two weeks, we have seen some improvement in our defense. We were really disappointed in special teams last week (at Oklahoma State). We got some bad bounces. ... We saw the resurgence of our offense; it started to come back last week. It started to look like the old offense at times.”