OU football team seeks two forms of redemption
Oklahoma may have redeemed itself with a win in Manhattan, Kan., last weekend after the hangover formally known as Texas Tech, but the redemption factor is kicked up a notch for this weekend’s game against Texas A&M, according to the Sooner players.
“We definitely owe Owen Field an apology,” sophomore defensive back Tony Jefferson said. “We’re looking forward to getting back out there and playing football like we know we can.”
What made the Tech loss so puzzling was the disparity between the OU team that took the field during the home game debacle and the team that split the Wildcat offense into pieces Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
And OU doesn’t expect to let that same team that came out against Tech run out of the Sooner tunnel this week.
“They came in wanting it more. We get used to playing and hyped up for big games and we let them slip by us,” said sophomore linebacker Tom Wort, who spent the game sidelined. “Now we have to go out there and take care of business the rest of the way.”
And so far, it’s been business as usual for a defense that ranks ninth in the nation with 8.25 tackles for loss per game. What the defense did in the second half against KSU was nothing short of a callous take-down of a top-10 team, refusing the Wildcats any points during the final two quarters.
From the sidelines against Tech, Wort watched the collapse of one of the most volatile defenses in the country. But against Kansas State, for which Wort was cleared to play, he noticed a change in the linebacking corps, especially in the second half.
“When we have everyone healthy, we (linebackers) have the best combinations out there,” Wort said. “If we’re all out there, then we feel more confident. If Travis (Lewis) isn’t out there, we can tell a difference. And when I wasn’t out there, they could tell a difference.”
And the challenge this weekend will be to contain the Aggie offense, one of the most balanced offensive units in the country.
Mike Sherman’s squad is averaging 224.5 yards on the ground while throwing for an average of 295.3 yards each game.
Senior quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who already has 18 touchdowns to go with his 2,322 yards this year, is an experienced player the Sooners can’t take for granted. Tannehill has shown he can make defenses pay with his speed even when his throwing accuracy is called into question.
A&M might be the most balanced team the Sooners have faced, OU coach Bob Stoops said.
“They do a good job of running the football. They also run it on everyone,” Stoops said. “They take advantage of that and how you are trying to stop the run with play-action passes. It’s a big challenge.”
But the Sooners have in tow the top-ranked team in the country when it comes to sacks, averaging 4.25 per game. Senior defensive end Frank Alexander, junior defensive end Ronnell Lewis, and sophomore linebacker Corey Nelson all have at least five sacks this season to give the Sooners the most players in the country with five or more sacks.
OU will need its defensive starters to make big plays this weekend to pay back the Aggie squad that beat OU in College Station last season and heal the wounds from its first home loss in 39 games.
A&M has shown it can build a commanding lead in the first half, and after getting duped by Missouri last weekend, the Aggies have a chip on their shoulders. OU will need to shut down the run and the Sooner secondary will need to deny Tannehill and his receivers any long balls to contain the passing game.