NORMAN — Mike Stoops answered a couple dozen questions after Monday's practice, speaking frankly and affably about his defense and its recent struggles.
Near the end of his session with reporters, Stoops asked, “What was Oklahoma State averaging before the game? 560 (yards)? 580?
“What'd they have? 490? They didn't get their average, did they?
“What'd we average going into the game? 520? What'd we get? 620?”
Stoops grinned as he made his way from the interview room.
“All right,” he said, chuckling. “End of story. Leave me alone.”
Oklahoma's 51-48, overtime victory over Oklahoma State last weekend raised more questions about the Sooner defense than it answered.
The Sooners enter Saturday's regular-season finale at TCU with the opportunity to claim at least a share of the Big 12 title with a win.
Stoops' unit has surrendered a combined 97 points and 1,268 total yards over its most recent two-game stretch, but there were actually some positives to take from Bedlam — and not just holding OSU beneath its season average.
After the Cowboys opened the second half Saturday with a 75-yard touchdown pass, they were forced to punt four times.
On OSU's overtime possession, it picked up one first down before having to settle for a field goal, which allowed the Sooners to win on Brennan Clay's 18-yard touchdown run.
“I think we felt like if we could hold them to a field goal, I think everyone thought we were gonna win,” Stoops said. “That was the honest feeling of everyone on our team. We need to just hold them to a field goal and we'll have a great opportunity to win.”
Senior defensive tackle Casey Walker said OU's ability to make key stops late is “what matters.”
“We try not to look at earlier in the game, how many yards we've given up,” Walker said. “Right now, we need this stop. And then next series, right now we need this stop. That's what matters.”
Still, no one is glossing over the problems in OU's defense that its recent opponents have exposed.
After appearing dominant earlier in the season — especially in wins at Texas Tech and against Texas — the Sooners, over their last three games, have allowed 131 points.
“When somebody finds a weakness in your defense ... we haven't been able to correct it,” Stoops said. “We did make some adjustments and played some things better a week ago. “
Stoops said the biggest problem is the big plays; on the Cowboys' second-half opening touchdown, safety Tony Jefferson bit on a play-action fake, which allowed OSU's Josh Stewart to get open across the middle of the field.
“Tony's was a bad mental breakdown,” Stoops said. “We let them score on one play. ... When they make plays like over the middle, guy makes a great catch, we're covering them, you can live with ...
“You just let someone run by you, that's not good.”
Quarterback Landry Jones and the Oklahoma offense's ability to bail the defense out by simply outscoring the other team can't last forever.
“We've been living on the edge,” Stoops said. “We need to contribute in a stronger way this weekend.”