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Oklahoma run defense must improve

Oklahoma has nearly lost its last two games because of poor run defense. Those mistakes will cost the Sooners in Big 12 play, OU beat writer Jake Trotter writes.
By Jake Trotter Modified: September 26, 2010 at 10:54 pm •  Published: September 26, 2010

CINCINNATI — Coming out of the weekend, turns out Texas has problems bigger than Oklahoma ever imagined.

But despite escaping the nonleague slate unscathed, the Sooners should be concerned with an alarming development heading into the Red River Rivalry.

The inability to stop the run.

A flaw that almost doomed the Sooners in narrow wins over Air Force and Cincinnati.

A flaw that almost certainly will doom them in the Big 12 — if not corrected.

"Someone having the ability to establish the run is very concerning," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "They're issues that are very correctable, but some of our good players are making mistakes technique and fundamental wise ... very simple concepts. Plays that we just have to stay in our gaps and play with discipline."

Up until now, a staple of the Bob Stoops era at OU has been the systematic stuffing of the run.

Last year, the Sooners ranked eighth nationally in run defense. In fact, every Sooner defense since 2000 has been in the top 25 in run defense.

But through four games this season, OU is No. 93 in run defense while surrendering almost 178 rushing yards a game.

A week after Air Force's triple-option attack churned out 351 yards on the ground in Norman, Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead gashed the Sooners for 171 yards on 21 carries.

"I thought, first, he's an excellent player ... he was able to find spaces, cut back and break tackles," Stoops said Saturday night. "But I thought, for us, there were a few times execution-wise that we didn't squeeze him out when he was bending it back, and there were times we missed tackles. We had 'backers there to make tackles a time or two, and he'd either break the tackle or go right by us."

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OU against the run this season:

Opponent, Rushing yards allowed per game

Utah State, 80

Florida State, 123

Air Force, 351

Cincinnati, 156

Sooners against the run in the Bob Stoops era

Year, Rushing yards allowed per game, Run defense ranking

2010, 178, 93

2009, 92, 8

2008, 116, 20

2007, 110, 17

2006, 99, 16

2005, 91, 4

2004, 95, 6

2003, 113, 20

2002, 108, 14

2001, 90, 7

2000, 108, 23

1999, 125, 37

Compiled by Jake Trotter

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