NORMAN — In the two games since senior linebacker Corey Nelson's season-ending injury, Oklahoma's run defense has been significantly less productive.
Texas rushed for 255 yards — with two individual 100-yard performances — then Kansas gained 118 yards rushing in the first quarter alone last weekend.
After halftime, though, the Jayhawks managed just 30 rushing yards. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said the problem was simply young, inexperienced players lining up incorrectly.
Against hapless Kansas, the Sooner defense could afford a bad start. But Saturday on Owen Field, No. 10-ranked Texas Tech could rout Oklahoma if it takes too long to figure things out defensively.
“We have to be able recognize it and react properly on the field,” Stoops said. “We're working hard on it, but obviously we have to keep doing it. It shouldn't take a quarter and a half to figure it out.”
Oklahoma's run defense played pretty well through the first five games of the season, although there were still occasional leaks. West Virginia's Dreamius Smith rushed for a 75-yard touchdown in Week 2, and Notre Dame's George Atkinson III scored on an 80-yard run in the Sooners' win in South Bend.
The past two weeks, though, the run defense has struggled more consistently without Nelson, who defensive coordinator Mike Stoops called the “conductor on the field.”
“He could get people lined up because he's a very experienced player,” Mike Stoops said.
Without Nelson, the Sooners are relying on linebackers lacking that experience. Sophomore Frank Shannon has been forced into that conductor role without Nelson, Mike Stoops said.