NORMAN – The ball went 87 yards.
Sure, it was deflected off the hands of Baylor's Tevin Reese after it was thrown by eventual Heisman Trophy quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the ball went for 87 yards, and the closest person to Kendall Wright after he caught it was Oklahoma defensive back Javon Harris. He didn't get within three yards of Wright.
Griffin shook his head, perhaps in disbelief. OU's Tony Jefferson placed hands on his hips, his shoulders rising then falling.
That play, that 87-yard gift to the Baylor offense, it hurt Bob Stoops' pride.
And it's one of about seven major plays given up by the 2011 Sooners defense — that continually get brought up — that gnawed at Stoops.
When looking at Stoops, you’re looking at a former Big Ten defensive back turned Big 12 defensive backs coach turned SEC defensive coordinator turned BCS national championship coach who unleashed a defense for the ages.
Of course that play hurt his pride.
“But you know, struggles offensively hurt my pride, too,” Stoops said at OU Media Day on Saturday. “I'm a head coach. Either side bothers me.”
It bothers Mike Stoops, too. He doesn't blame the struggle of OU's defense on the fact the offense doesn't huddle up and runs at a quicker pace. He blames the struggle of OU's defense on the inability to react at a fast pace.
“That's the whole thing with the defense, is having the ability to play fast, to react to what you see and then not have to think,” Mike Stoops said. “As you can see at times a year ago, I thought there was a lot of thinking going on. We got the short end of the stick.”
Some of it's mental. Mike Stoops is working on that. Some of it's physical. Mike Stoops is working on that, too. But as brother Bob likes to say this season, Mike Stoops hasn't played football in a few years. He can't go out there and make the plays. Besides, he's too old.
As for an edge, Mike Stoops said that doesn't blossom just from a bunch of All-Americans.
“We will have that same energy, passion and hopefully we do things correctly,” Mike Stoops said. “These guys, they want to do well. We're trying to instill in them and they've responded.”
While the defense lost Travis Lewis, who is now with the Detroit Lions, it kept Aaron Colvin. Colvin and Lewis ended the season tied for 14th in the Big 12 with 84 total tackles. And though Jamell Fleming is also gone, Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris, who combined for seven interceptions last season, are back.
As for the defenders who gave up an 87-yard play to Baylor last November, they don't feel good about what happened either. Mike Stoops used the word “redemption” for a defense that ended its season ranked 55th in yards per game.
“We're tired of hearing about what happened a year ago,” Mike Stoops said. “We understand what happened. That's gone forever, and I'll be surprised if they don't come back with a vengeance in those games and take it personally. I hope they do.”