NORMAN â€” When offensive coordinators game plan for Oklahoma's defense, priority No. 1 is to account for Jeremy Beal.
The leading candidate for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, the Sooners' senior defensive end leads the conference in sacks and tackles for losses.
â€œHe's real quick, and he's also got size,â€ said Oklahoma State right tackle Levy Adcock. â€œUsually when you see a guy that's quick, he doesn't have that much size. So this is going to be a little different experience.â€
What the Cowboys have been doing week after week is protect quarterback Brandon Weeden. OSU leads the conference, by a large margin, in fewest sacks allowed (10).
Whether Beal and the Sooners can pressure Weeden is one of the key matchups in Saturday's Bedlam showdown, with the winner capturing the Big 12 South.
â€œIt's always important to get to the quarterback,â€ said OU coach Bob Stoops. â€œBut it's coverage, it's rush, it's all of that together.â€
OU struggled at times getting pressure early in the season. The Sooners, though, have had more success in recent weeks once defensive coordinator Brent Venables started blitzing more.
â€œThere's run game involved,â€ Stoops said. â€œThere are a lot of things. It isn't just blitzing where you blitz every down. It's part of the game. But you have to mix it up.â€
OSU coach Mike Gundy said the Cowboys have seen every possible defensive game plan from blitz-heavy, to almost no blitzes to mixed coverages.
â€œThe guys up front have done a really good job sorting out blitzes and stunts and stuff like that,â€ Weeden said. â€œThey've done a tremendous job. It takes some pressure off me in a sense. Also the backs are picking up blitzes. The back end is what I'm more concerned with.â€
The Sooners' challenge is containing an OSU offense that's ranked No. 1 nationally. Defensive linemen can't constantly bring pressure. Get up field too quickly and running back Kendall Hunter could have a huge game on the ground.