Sooner defense bends, doesn’t break in the end
LUBBOCK, Texas — Alan Bowman doubled over in pain and quickly threw away his helmet.
A few moments later he was heading up the ramp at Jones AT&T Stadium, his game finished after he re-aggravated the partially collapsed lung he initially suffered in late September against West Virginia.
The injury proved to be the opening Oklahoma’s defense needed. With Jett Duffey instead quarterbacking Texas Tech, the second half turned more normal football and less video-game offense, as the Sooners held the Red Raiders to 15 second-half points as No. 7 OU escaped with a 51-46 win.
And when Oklahoma needed a big defensive play most — after Texas Tech scored with 6:54 remaining to pull within two — the Sooners came through, with Robert Barnes picking off
Duffey’s conversion pass and returning it about 105 yards for two points the other way to give OU a bit of breathing room.
Later, Barnes swatted away another Duffey two-point conversion pass.
Even considering Duffey’s performance, there were some encouraging signs for the defense in the second half. Oklahoma got to Duffey twice for sacks, both by defensive linemen — Amani Bledsoe and Neville Gallimore.
But in the first half, there was plenty cause for concern from a defense that had looked reborn in the first two games with Ruffin McNeill as defensive coordinator but who had yet to face a capable offense since Mike Stoops’ firing nearly a month ago.
Oklahoma was mostly content to give Bowman time to work with a three-man rush and hope to cover on the back end of the defense.
But instead, Texas Tech receivers found plenty of open room and Bowman consistently picked apart the Sooners’ secondary.
On top of that, the tackling issues which had plagued Oklahoma for the first part of the season showed up once more, including on Da’Leon Ward’s 45-yard touchdown in the second quarter that put the Red Raiders up 24-14 when Jordan Parker was indecisive on moving for the tackle and instead stumbled as Ward raced to the end zone.
The Sooners were hurting for depth in the secondary, with starters Bookie Radley-Hiles and Kahlil Haughton out with injuries, forcing into action little-used players like Parker.
Parnell Motley, the object of much consternation among Sooners fans, was called for a pass interference call in the end zone, negating an interception.
Oklahoma also once again didn’t force a fumble.
The Sooners’ defense has yet to recover a fumble this season.
Both of Oklahoma’s fumble recoveries this year have come on special teams.
Oklahoma faces a middle-of-the-pack as far as Big 12 offenses next week in Bedlam, then Kansas’ offense figures to offer little resistance a week later.
But then West Virginia looms and the Mountaineers have one of the best quarterbacks in college football in Will Grier, who helped West Virginia put up 578 yards of total offense against Texas on Saturday.