STILLWATER â€” Before last season, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops paid a visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to meet with Alabama coach Nick Saban.
A meeting that paid off in a 47-41 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium and a share of another Big 12 South title.
With just a few days to do it, Stoops and defensive coordinator Brent Venables were able to install Alabama's famed â€œ50 Defenseâ€ this week. A base look they hadn't shown before.
Stunning OSU's high-scoring offense, while also slowing it down.
â€œWe got in a little bit of an odd look front more than we ever have. It worked out well for us,â€ Stoops said. â€œThe kids really executed well. Brent did a nice job of mixing that in and going to a 50 front a lot more than we were used to going to it.â€
Sure, the Sooners gave up 41 points. But one of those touchdowns came on a Landry Jones interception. Another was Justin Gilbert's kick return. And in the final minutes, when OSU scored 10 more of its points, OU was in prevent mode.
All season, OSU offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen seemed to be one step ahead of opposing defenses. But in his first taste of Bedlam, Holgorsen never could quite solve OU's defense, which delivered its best game of the Big 12 season.
â€œThey schemed a few things that got to us,â€ Holgorsen said. â€œThey've got pretty good players, and they got to us a little bit.â€
The Sooners got to OSU by attacking speed with speed. OU used three defensive ends on the field at the same time, with Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander flanking the lone defensive tackle, and end Jeremy Beal essentially lining up at outside linebacker. Then, when they wanted to bring pressure, the Sooners walked up linebacker Austin Box to the line of scrimmage and brought him off the other edge.
For the first time all season, OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden was under duress. The Sooners didn't sack him, but they sure seemed to fluster him. Twice in the first half, Quinton Carter picked him off, the first interception leading to a Sooner touchdown.
But no defensive play was bigger than the interception in the fourth quarter. With just over six minutes to play, Lewis came humming around the edge and got his hand on the ball to tip it up, allowing Box to slice in with a diving interception at the OSU 18-yard line. The turnover set up another Jimmy Stevens field goal, putting OU up by two scores, and the Cowboys never recovered.
The Sooners got great individual efforts from all over the field. Cornerbacks Demontre Hurst and Jamell Fleming outplayed OSU's receivers. Yes, Blackmon was hobbled with an ankle injury. But even a hobbled Blackmon is better than most receivers.
Lewis and Box were in Weeden's face all night. Javon Harris replaced injured safety Jonathan Nelson and was dynamite in coverage over the middle of the field along with Carter and Tony Jefferson.
And Beal showed why he might be the league's best defensive player, leading the charge to hold Kendall Hunter to just 55 yards rushing, while also helping in coverage when OU went to the umbrella defense.
â€œI thought they had a good game plan,â€ said OSU coach Mike Gundy. â€œWe never really got into a rhythm.â€
The Sooners did that by taking away OSU's big plays. Save for a 28-yard run by running back Jeremy Smith and a breakdown at the end of the first half that allowed Blackmon to catch a bomb down the sidelines, the Sooners kept everything in front of them.
No other pass play went for more than 20 yards. No other run for more than 21. And in turn, OSU had to earn everything it got.
â€œGive the players credit,â€ Stoops said. â€œThe defense was sensational.â€