NORMAN — Because of the quarterback's smarts and the offense's design, not many defenses have gotten all that close to Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden this year.
The Cowboys have given up 11 sacks in 11 games, 15th in the country. Texas A&M got to him early, registering three of those 11 sacks, but then Weeden shredded the Aggies in the second half.
Next to Texas A&M, and perhaps Texas, this week figures to present OSU with its biggest challenge up front.
Even without junior Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma's line – questioned entering the season – has turned out to be one of the team's consistent strengths. The Sooners have recorded 37 sacks, tied for third in the country.
Might this be a week when Weeden, at the very least, has someone speeding up his decisions?
“It'll be a factor,” OU coach Bob Stoops said of pressure. “It always is.”
A lot of the success in pass protection has been OSU's offensive line. And a lot of it has been Weeden, too.
“He's very efficient when he gets rid of the ball and how he distributes it,” Sooners defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright said. “He understands coverages, and he knows where his people are. He's not holding on to the ball very long. Getting pressure on a guy like him makes it pretty difficult.
“Nobody's gotten very many sacks on them. But, again, part of that is keeping pressure on him, keeping the pocket coming back at him, being in throwing lanes, throwing windows, where he doesn't have clean shots at you.”
Pressure – any level of it – is made more important in light of the fact OU has been extremely vulnerable all season to big-play passing offenses.
But where will the Sooners get their pass rush?
Lewis had 5½ sacks and 13 tackles behind the line before going down with a sprained knee two weeks ago. In his place, Wright and defensive coordinator Brent Venables moved Corey Nelson to end against Iowa State.