Early season conjecture was that the Red River Rivalry might be a defensive dual. After watching film of OU's 31-29 win over Cincinnati, the biggest factor could be which team ends its slump — the Sooners on defense, the Longhorns on offense.
OU forced six three-and-outs and three turnovers against Cincinnati. But the Bearcats also compiled 461 total yards, 269 coming on seven plays.
The primary reason the Sooners rank 97th nationally in total defense is they continue to be burned for big plays.
This wasn't like Utah State when defensive backs were in position but failed to make a play. The Bearcats' big plays were the result of several factors, starting with the inability to stop the run, which set up play-action passes.
Here's the breakdown:
* On D.J. Woods' 55-yard reception in the first quarter, after being gashed for two Isaiah Pead runs, Woods slipped Quinton Carter's tackle for a long-gainer.
* On Woods' 73-yard reception, when a TD was thwarted by Jonathan Nelson punching the ball out of Woods' arm, Woods was wide open because Carter ran underneath the umpire. Carter was out of position to make a play.
* Pead had runs of 16, 13, 25, 13, 35 and 13 yards. Sometimes it was a big hole up front; a couple of times he cut back. Pead also broke several tackles. Defensive backs also had problems fighting off blocks by wide receivers.
"We're very inconsistent overall," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "You just can't play good defense doing that, hot and cold ... It might be hard to believe but we still feel we have a chance to have a great defense. Obviously we haven't displayed that except for one outing. That's disappointing."
Oklahoma fans are concerned about their defense.
Texas fans are frustrated with an inept offense.
Which side improves the most this week could determine which team wins Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.
* Play of the Game: Cincinnati trailed 24-22 and was in OU territory when defensive end Pryce Macon raced around the corner for a sack, forcing a fumble. Jeremy Beal recovered. The next time the Bearcats crossed midfield they trailed by two possessions.
Observations after watching the film:
The ground game has issues. DeMarco Murray was held to three yards or less on 20 of 28 carries ... Fullback Trey Millard's primary role has been blocking but he showed why he eventually will play tight end. Millard's 5-yard TD reception was a game-clincher ... Freshman wide receivers Kenny Stills and Trey Franks had solid games. Stills' sideline toe-tap was a veteran move. Stills also showed tremendous body control on a 29-yard catch and had a 25-yard reception wiped out by a penalty ... Quarterback Landry Jones completed 13 consecutive passes in the first half. He also stepped up in the pocket to make a couple of plays. If the Sooners don't drop any passes, Jones would have finished 40-of-51 for more than 400 yards ... In the offensive line rotation at guard, Gabe Ikard and Brian Lepak are better pass blockers, Tyler Evans and Stephen Good better run blockers.
Defensive ends Pryce Macon and Ronnell Lewis were the best pass rushers, which is why Frank Alexander, still hampered by a sprained ankle, didn't play much the second half. Alexander didn't record a tackle ... Middle linebacker Tom Wort delivers punishing hits but too often is out of position, usually when he over pursues a play ... Tony Jefferson has Roy Williams-like potential but for the first time all season was burned for a couple of big plays when he bit on play-action fakes ... Senior safety Quinton Carter arguably was OU's most consistent defender the first three games but was burned for two big plays and missed a couple of tackles ... True freshman cornerback Aaron Colvin, forced to play the second half for Jamell Fleming (sprained ankle) was picked on a couple of times. Colvin was flagged for two penalties but provided solid coverage, a solid debut.
How do the Longhorns fare in the Cotton Bowl coming off a loss? The sample size is small. Texas has entered the OU game coming off a loss only four times the past 50 years. Three times the Longhorns have defeated the Sooners. The most recent example, three years ago, they lost back-to-back. Year, Loss week before OU Loss, Result vs. OU 2007, Lost to K-State 41-21, Lost to OU 28-21 1999, Lost to K-State 35-17, Defeated OU 38-28 1997, Lost to OSU 42-16, Defeated OU 27-24 1994, Lost to Colorado 34-31, Defeated OU 17-10