DALLAS – The Sooners arrive at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday morning with a loss, and Texas arrives with a quarterback. Who saw either one coming?
David Ash's emergence as an effective QB has restored Longhorn confidence and changed the way OU has to play this game.
Two years in a row, the Sooners played Texas knowing ‘Horn quarterbacks — Garrett Gilbert, Case McCoy, a rookie Ash — couldn't beat them. Now the Sooners know different.
Which means Mike Stoops knows what he has to do. Here comes the Oklahoma blitz.
Stoops dialed up blitzes repeatedly last week in Lubbock, and it made life miserable for veteran Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege. Expect the same in the Cotton Bowl.
“What we did the other night was we made the quarterback think and adjust,” Stoops said. “You don't want the quarterback to get comfortable. That's the worst thing you can do.”
OU got to Ash and McCoy last year, with a school record eight sacks, helping lead to five Texas turnovers and three defensive Sooner touchdowns.
But that was a mismatch. This is not. Ash has displayed the development that he can hit open receivers, often quickly. He's not the skittish freshman who completed just 11 of 20 passes for 107 yards against OU last season, with two interceptions and a lone TD, scored with 2:31 left in the game.
Ash's numbers are impressive: 19-of-23 for 326 yards and four touchdowns against Ole Miss; 30-of-37 for 304 yards and three TDs against OSU; 22-of-29 for 269 yards and a TD against West Virginia. Only one interception total all season.
“Again, you have to keep the quarterback off balance,” Stoops said. “He's the most important player on any team. You have to threaten him all the time. Make him make decisions quickly and not let him get comfortable.”
Speaking of comfort, Stoops has it, even while blitzing, because of his defensive backfield, which has become the strength of this OU team. Cornerbacks Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst, plus free safety Tony Jefferson, are the highest-performing Sooners. They were superb last week against Tech's pass-happy offense.
“It gives you some comfort,” Stoops said. “We feel like we've blitzed pretty effectively this year. But you still have to be strategic.”
For instance, Tech combats the blitz with screen passes to receivers. Texas counters with screens to the tailbacks. The Sooners can't sell out without accounting for those plays, which worked particularly well for UT against OSU blitzes two weeks ago.
“It's a cat and mouse game continuously each week to try to develop ways (to blitz) and cover your butt in all areas,” Stoops said. “There's a fine line.”
The OU defensive line has played solid this season but isn't built to assault the quarterback on its own. It has to have help from blitzers.
So here's the line for Saturday. Get to Ash, get a victory.
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.