Um, where has that defense been hiding?
The Sooners played about as close to perfect Saturday night against Texas Tech as possible, but the defense was really the story of the game. Giving up 21 points to Tech's relentless offense is roughly the equivalent of allowing negative points against most average teams.
The OU front four hounded Tech triggerman Graham Harrell all night, and the Sooner secondary locked down the Red Raiders' dangerous wide receivers. But the key to OU's defensive turnaround is the play of middle linebacker Austin Box. Since Ryan Reynolds went down against Texas, Box has shown week-to-week improvement. Against Tech, the rangy converted safety held down the middle of the field in pass coverage and swarmed ball carriers all night, rendering the Red Raiders' aerial "long handoffs" ineffective. Reynolds may have been the heart and soul of the Sooner D earlier this year, but it's entirely possible that the entire unit is better with Box. Oh yeah, his counterpart Travis Lewis is pretty good, too.
OU's offensive and defensive lines also reminded the country why they garnered so much acclaim in the preseason. The Sooners controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides. As good as Auston English has been as a Sooner, is it possible that he has been surpassed by Frank Alexander at defensive end. OU's coaches raved about Alexander during the spring and preseason workouts, but his ill-timed stabbing injury earlier this season meant that he had yet to really show his stuff to inquisitive OU fans. All questions were answered this evening, as Alexander and Jeremy Beal put heat on Harrell throughout the game.
Offensively, Demarco Murray picked a great time to show us all that he's all the way back from a knee injury that clearly had hobbled him this year. Saturday night, Murray had all the burst and shiftiness we saw last year. As good as Michael Crabtree is, Murray looked like he may have been the best player on the field.
A few other observations about OU's big win:
*Has Jermaine Gresham had one game this year where he hasn't dropped an easy touchdown pass?
*Chris Brown doesn't really seem to do anything great, but he does everything well. He may not be a game breaker, but he's a model of consistency. Brown's steady contribution has been the saving grace of a run game that struggled at times this year.
*What got into Nic Harris tonight?
*Obviously, both teams played a chippy game on Saturday. But Texas Tech is out-and-out dirty. "The elf," by the way, must not have caught the score of the game when he was doing all that yapping.
*I don't remember the last time I saw Bob Stoops that fired up. He clearly wanted that one badly.
*I know Mike Leach loves to go for it on fourth down, but there was no doubt in my mind that he should have kicked on the Raiders' first two attempts. Kicking the field goal early on would have stemmed OU's momentum, which quickly turned into an avalanche. The next attempt--eschewing a punt--smacked of desperation. After Tech failed to convert there, the Red Raiders seemed to know they were finished.
*Besides playing a strong game defensively, Box also threw the best block of the evening on Lewis' interception return near the end of the first half.