LAWRENCE, Kan. — After last week’s dominating defensive performance in the Cotton Bowl, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables was asked if OU’s defense stacks up with SEC defensive giants Alabama and LSU.
Venables brushed off the comparison, stating his only focus was to show steady improvement the remainder of the season.
The Sooners’ defense was a story of two halves in a 47-17 win over Kansas Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
“In the second half we played cleaner, tackled better and made them earn things,” Venables said. “The thing you can’t do is give up big plays and you have to get pressure on the quarterback. There are things you have to do on a consistent basis.”
The first half, the defense looked like the inconsistent unit against Missouri.
The second half, the defense dominated similar to performances against Florida State and Texas.
Kansas compiled 246 yards in the first half. The Jayhawks averaged 6.7 yards per rush attempt.
“We got angry,” said linebacker Travis Lewis. “They were talking an awful lot of trash. That got us going. We flipped the switch and settled down. Once we did that we dominated.”
In the second half the Jayhawks picked up only one first down. And that came in the waning minutes.
In the second half the Sooners held Kansas to six total yards.
On 27 plays.
But in the first half the Jayhawks had a lot of success.
“They had some big plays but we got it corrected,” Lewis said. “It’s going to happen. They’ve got some athletes. On the one play we thought the quarterback dropped the ball.”
Lewis was referring to the Jayhawks’ first touchdown.
After a five-minute delay in which Kansas center Jeremiah Hatch was taken to the hospital, the Jayhawks faced a fourth-and-1 from their own 44-yard line. Everyone expected a punt. Ryan Broyles was deep for the Sooners but quickly jogged off when KU ran its offense onto the field.
Quarterback Jordan Webb fumbled the snap, picked up the ball, took a step to his left and made an awkward pitch to Sims. OU cornerback Jamell Fleming had an open shot to tackle Sims.
Sims sidestepped Fleming. No other OU defender was close. Sims raced untouched down the Kansas sideline for a score.
The Jayhawks other touchdown also was set up by an unusual play.
Late in the second quarter, Webb was flushed out of the pocket. Scrambling around for several seconds Webb finally heaved a pass downfield to Reli Lewis. The 26-yard gain set up Darrian Miller’s 2-yard TD run.
“They got a lot of yards on those two plays,” Venables said. “A third of their yards came on two plays.”
Kansas has allowed nearly 60 points a game to four opponents from BCS conferences. It was inevitable the Sooners would eventually roll to a win after leading only 27-17 at halftime.
But the Jayhawks have arguably the worst defense in the nation. The true test in an otherwise meaningless game was how would OU’s defense fare against a respectable KU offense?
“Coming into the game we felt it was the best O-line we’ve played up to this point in the season,” Venables said. “They protect the ball. They run the ball, average over 200 yards rushing a game. They’re very patient.
But after halftime, OU’s defense dominated.
Sims and Miller, who combined for 137 rushing yards in the first half, were held to four yards rushing on 14 attempts in the second half.
“In the second half we came out and played our game,” Lewis said. “When you take a step back and look at it they had 260 yards and they put up 530 yards on Oklahoma State last week.
“I know they didn’t have their starters in the whole time. But any time you come out and a team has (only six yards) in a half you’re doing a pretty good job.”