DALLAS — Last Nov. 10, Baylor totaled 424 yards and 34 points on the Oklahoma defense. Most of us thought that was alarming.
We didn't know what alarming was.
The next Saturday, West Virginia posted 778 yards and 49 points on the Sooners. Then OSU had 490 yards and 45 regulation points. Finally, whatever was left of OU's defensive reputation was shredded in the Cotton Bowl. Johnny Football and Texas A&M produced 663 yards and 41 points.
“Insulting,” Sooner cornerback Aaron Colvin said Tuesday during Big 12 Football Media Days.
Want to know why no one has OU in its preseason top 10? Why OSU and TCU — who since 1960 have combined for one outright title in the Big 12, Big Eight or Southwest conferences — received more first-place votes than did the Sooners in the preseason Big 12 poll?
Those four post-October games. Those four games when the Sooners belied the heritage of Shoate and Selmon and Casillas and Calmus.
“Our tradition is being the best in the Big 12 and in the country,” Colvin said, “and we have to get back to that.”
Time has not dimmed those astonishing numbers. Johnny Manziel's 229 yards rushing and 287 yards passing. Tavon Austin's 344 rushing yards on 21 carries, in a game in which West Virginia had FOUR touchdown drives of at least 90 yards. OSU's third-string quarterback, Clint Chelf, carving up the Sooner defense.
But in the crazy Big 12, the Sooners won all but that A&M game. And with plenty of beef and playmakers returning to boost Landry Jones' successor, points aren't likely to be at a premium for these Sooners.
So just get a little bit better on defense. Just keep Baylor somewhere around 30 points. Keep Chelf from folk-hero territory. Hold the ghosts of Tavon Austin to one or two 90-yard drives.
Do that, and this could be quite a solid OU season. A championship season, even.
“I think that's a possibility, that we can be improved,” Bob Stoops said. “And there's a lot of games that we did play really well on defense.”
Just not late in the season, when the cavalcade of spread offenses arrived.
The Sooners return just four starters — Colvin, safety Gabe Lynn, linebacker Corey Nelson and lineman Chuka Ndulue — but sometimes that's not a bad thing. Of course, OU also returns defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. We'll see if that's a good thing.
Little Brother's return to the staff did not go well. Even Bob Stoops admits all the problems last year were not personnel.
“I said it in the first (postseason) meeting, some of our scheme was stronger in pass coverage and pass defense and overall, and that part worked and was positive,” Stoops said. “But we hurt ourself too much in the run game. So we've got to adjust some of that. Be better in what we're asking our guys to do on defense or even up front.
“But there are times guys needed to be physically in a better position and make the play. So it's always a combination of all of it.”
Good news on that front. If the Sooners want to fortify against the run — and I'd recommend it; OU allowed 271.2 yards rushing a game after October — this is a good year to do it. Big 12 quarterback expertise figures to drop off dramatically.
Of course, some of this is semantics. Robert Griffin and Seth Doege lit up the 2011 Sooners in the air before the Land Run of last autumn. So both need to be stymied to some degree.
“It galls me when that happens, as an old defensive coordinator,” Stoops said of the video-game numbers allowed. “Sure.
“I have a big problem as a coach with mental mistakes. To me, that's something that it takes no talent to be correct. That doesn't mean you're going to make the play … if someone beats you, they beat you. But it shouldn't happen by you not doing what you're supposed to do.”
Here's the crazy part. The Sooners still had one of the Big 12's better defenses. In conference games only, OU ranked first in pass defense, second in scoring defense, third in total defense and sixth in run defense. The Sooners, for instance, ranked ahead of Texas in all four categories and ahead of OSU in all but run defense.
So it wasn't that the Sooners were all that bad on defense. It's just that when they were bad, they were really bad. Historically bad. What-in-the-name-of-Granville Liggins-is-going-on bad.
“I feel like we have a chip on our shoulders,” Colvin said. “I feel like it is a little insulting, because we are Oklahoma, and we have the talent to step up every year and fill those holes. I know we'll do it this year. Guys have been working to do that. We're going to shock a lot of people.”
The OU defense doesn't have to shock us. Just surprise us a little, and this Sooner season could end with a championship.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.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.