Someone asked me the other day if Tavon Austin’s runaway night against the Sooners reminded of Percy Harvin.
Percy Harvin? Try Gale Sayers. If you never saw the Kansas Comet, pity for you. Of course, I didn’t see Sayers score six touchdowns for the Bears against the 49ers on a muddy Wrigley Field in 1965, but I’ve seen the clips and I’ve read the accounts.
And that’s the closest thing I can compare Austin to. We’ve written a lot about OU’s defense against West Virginia, including my column in the Wednesday Oklahoman, which pops Mike Stoops for getting completely outfoxed by Dana Holgorsen. You can read that here.
But let’s not forget to applaud Austin. He’s an incredible talent. And Mike Stoops, while not absolving himself of responsibility, was also quick to point out just how special was the player who carved up the Sooners for 344 rushing yards and 572 all-purpose yards.
“I would venture to say there’s not many people could have done what he did, just because of his unique ability to run in space and not get our hands on him,” Stoops said. “Certainly, the effort, the speed he was able to do it at, to cut like he was able to do, was something I haven’t seen on a football field.
“I’ve seen a lot of the great, the Barry Sanders of the world, that can stop and move lateral that fast. That’s something I’d never seen. One of the great performances by a rusher. A lot of running backs can’t, no running back can do what that guy did. There’s no one built like that. So again, it was a perfect storm.”
By perfect storm, Stoops means OU’s defensive alignment, West Virginia’s shift of Austin from flanker to tailback and Austin’s unique ability.
“It has everything to do with position on the football,” Stoops said. “To their credit, he was fantastic. We couldn’t catch him. Gave him too much space.
“Tackling’s a lot about having leverage on the football or having position on the football, and we never had position on the football. That made it very frustrating. Believe me, it was a cumulative effect of a lot of bad play and a lot of bad football Saturday night. We’ll hopefully be well-motivated for Saturday.”
Speaking of Saturday, the Cowboys come to town with the same offensive system as West Virginia and a star tailback wearing No. 1. Joseph Randle isn’t the broken-field runner that Austin is, but he’s not bad in open space, plus is much more physical. Are the Sooners in trouble?
“Well, we are different teams,” said State offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “I’m not sure we can do what they did. We don’t have Tavon Austin to put in our backfield. The guy is a special player. Every week is different. OU does a really good job, they’re well-coached and they have really good players. I don’t see it as one week a team did this, another, this. Otherwise, someone can look at what we did at Kansas and say we’re not any good on offense, which isn’t true.”
Mike Stoops said, “They got another guy, No. 1, Randle: They got another guy No. 1 that’s a pretty doggone good football player. I hope they take him off the field. I don’t know what I’m wishing for, I don’t think they’re gonna take him off the field. I just hope he doesn’t have a career day against us.”
The Sooners frequently used an alignment of seven defensive backs and no linebackers against West Virginia. And the Mountaineers burned OU.
“With Tavon Austin in the backfield, we needed to make an adjustment there definitely,” Bob Stoops said. “We made a few. At times had certain blitzes. We changed some things up. Obviously not well enough. You can’t just all of a sudden radically change everything you’re doing (off the game plan). It’s tough to do.”
Bob Stoops initially said OU’s defense was not good in any area. But Mike Stoops disputed that.
“We weren’t great anywhere,” Mike Stoops said. “We weren’t great in space. Weren’t great up front. The coverage was good. Geno (Smith) threw some great balls. That’s going to happen. It was very frustrating.”
That was my reaction. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith threw for 320 yards, and Stedman Bailey had a monster game receiving, with four touchdowns and over 200 yards. Smith mostly picked on OU’s best cornerback, Aaron Colvin, but Colvin was in solid coverage most the game. He got beat bad a couple of times but mostly was draped all over Bailey.
“We gotta do a lot of things different,” Mike Stoops said. “It’s very uncharacteristic to have three guys kind of almost single-handedly dominate you the whole night. We just gotta come up with a better plan. Certainly we were not good at any level of our defense. Not good at any level of your defense, you’re going to give up monster numbers, and we did that.”