Sooner defense much improved

NORMAN, Okla. – One common theme that came out of Monday’s Big 12 teleconference was that the Oklahoma defense will be the most improved unit on the football field when the No. 16 Sooners play host to an unranked West Virginia University team Satutday.

“We remember what happened last year and we’ll be ready,” WVU cornerback Aaron Colvin said.

Led by a record-setting 344 yards rushing by senior Tavon Austin, the Mountaineers amassed an amazing 778 yards of total offense in a one-point, 50-49, loss at home to Oklahoma.

Numbers that haunted OU head coach Bob Stoops over the summer and resulted in the Sooners taking a new approach to playing defense.

“We played more of a 50 front than a four-man front,” Stoops said. “Our D-line was very active as were our linebackers.”

Two units that can expect to see a lot of work against a Mountaineer offense minus its three most explosive weapons from a year ago – Austin, Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey – but one that amassed more than 400 yards against FCS member William & Mary last Saturday.

“Yeah, Oklahoma’s made some changes, unfortunately for us,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “They look fast, they look good, they look aggressive.”

Words that could just as easily be used to describe the Mountaineer offense, at times, in WVU’s 24-17 come-from-behind victory over Bill and Mary.

“Dana (Holgorsen) doesn’t change his system much and he shouldn’t,” Stoops said. “Dana likes to run the football. He ran it on us a lot last year.”

West Virginia rushed for 172 yards on 44 attempts against The Tribe while first-year starting quarterback Paul Millard completed 19 of 25 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown.

Doing the lion’s share of work on the ground was former University of Houston running back Charles Sims, who finished with 120 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. Junior college transfer Dreamius Smith chipped in with 40 yards and a score on 12 totes of the pigskin.

“We had 400 yards, which when you’re looking at so many guys that have not played a college football game, the fact that we had 400 yards is probably satisfying for a whole lot of people,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t care about stats, I don’t care about numbers. I care about being efficient.”

To accomplish that feat this weekend, however, Millard, Smith and company will have to deal with a defense that has juniors Chuka Ndulue and Geneo Grissom and sophomores Charles Tapper and Jordan Wade up front, senior Corey Nelson and sophomore Frank Shannon at the linebackers, cornerbacks Aaron Colvin (senior) and Cortez Johnson (junior), and senior Gabe Lynn and junior Julian Wilson at the safeties.

A unit that kept visiting Louisiana-Monroe off of the scoreboard and limited the Warhawks to 166 total yards on offense – 38 on 22 rushing attempts.

“It was pleasing,” said Stoops. “They (ULM) had eight starters back on offense. But our adjustments and communication on the field was the best it has been in a long time.”

Good news for OU fans. Bad news for fans of the old gold and blue.