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'These guys found a way to win in that environment': What defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said after 53-45 win against Texas

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Marquise Overton and Alex Grinch

OU defensive coordinator talks to former defensive lineman Marquise Overton during OU Pro Day on Mar. 11.

The Sooners (2-2, 1-2 Big 12) defeated Texas (2-2, 1-2 Big 12), 53-45, in quadruple overtime on Saturday. 

Ou broke its two-game losing streak, and won its first Big 12 matchup of the season. 

Despite giving up 45 points, the Sooners' defense had one of their best performances of the season in the first three quarters of the game.

Here's what defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said postgame:

On defense falling apart late in the fourth quarter:

“I think the fact that these guys found a way to win in that environment, I got to start there. And to win against a quality football team, obviously our rival, and to find a way through thick and a lot of thin... I’ve got to give them a lot of credit. There's a lot of teams that, in those moments, would have packed it up and so that's one. What do you take from it? You take from it that close isn't going to be good enough. You use that word, I kind of would echo that, close to being a quality defense, close to being, I would say a good defense but what you need to do is you need to be able to do it consistently over the course of four quarters, there's no alternative, there is not a middle ground, and that’s one of the things we talked to the guys about. Proud of their effort and so proud that they can enjoy a win based on that effort but we have to do a better job executing for four quarters and there's no scenario that that's not the case moving forward.”

On young players providing a boost on defense

“Well, they did, and one of the things in all these moments, and I don't care if it's the first quarter, but certainly in the fourth quarter when you're trying to win a football game is you have to make plays and once again, there's no alternative. I mean, to go out there against a quality team and obviously a quarterback that's been doing it a long time at a high level. You have to match his ability to make some plays late in games and so to see some young guys make it, I mean, it is a critical element from a depth standpoint, it's a critical element from a competition standpoint and we're very proud of those guys' efforts in their ability to show up on a big stage and in big moments.”

On Woodi Washington and the defense fighting through fatigue

“Yeah well I'll start with Woodi (Washington). He's one of those young guys that I think we were referencing and we switch him out there to corner. We did it to get him on the field and take some quality reps for us. The guy that we thought had the skill set that certainly could help in a number of different positions, but I've been very pleased with him because the man has done a great job to get him up to speed and so that's a guy, as a young guy in this program, that has shown well here early on and so I’ve been pleased with Woodi (Washington) and to make a play there in the endzone in the fourth quarter, it's big time. But the first question at the end is it was fatigue set in. There's no doubt about it and then the hot day, obviously, you're chasing around a quarterback that's extending plays. In order to give ourselves a chance to have extra on him, it forces you to kind of limit yourself in coverage.

"You can't have extras everywhere and so in any event, that's a tall order, guys chasing after the quarterback and the guys chasing after routes and so there's no doubt the fatigue set in but again, I’ve got to give credit to the players, when things don't go exactly the way you want them to and life has a way of doing that to you. You’ve got a couple different options and there was one team probably more excited to be in overtime than the other but in those moments, you use the term or the phrase ‘find a way,’ you have to, that's what's required of you and the guys. I want to give them credit for that.”

On how big of a victory this was for the defense moving forward

“Huge and if you change a few things, you can play the game of saying, Well, if this happened, this happened, then maybe we’d be 3-0 at this point. But that's not right, reality is what you are. And so when this football team, this defense in particular, specifically has not found a way to finish football games yet, and so, what, why did it have to go that way? ... I can't tell you what's it going to take. But believe me, I hope it's this for our guys to realize that at no moment in that game is it over. You're never winning, you're never losing, it's, you win ultimately (when) the scoreboard goes to zeros. ... That's what you're in it for. And so it's a whole lot different in terms of our conversations this week, moving forward after a win then after a loss. But no, I'm not sure I can give you a completely accurate description of what this one means. Other than that, obviously, it's huge.”

On comparison between today’s game and the previous two

“Yeah, we had conversations this week, and you pause the video, at the end of the third quarter, you see the numbers on defense, and then the fourth quarter comes to a close and you say, again, how do we let that happen? Obviously, there's a number of factors that (determine) how that happens. The chief one is you could say I didn't do a good enough job, coach Grinch didn't do a good enough job in the fourth quarter. Well, I think, one thing that we're learning and we obviously are learning as fast as we need to. There's nothing more irrelevant than the score (at) halftime, and even less relevant is the score at the end of the third quarter. And I need to stop talking to the guys maybe a little bit, because a lot of the things that we talk about end up coming to pass, but you emphasize it and you have to be in it. And sometimes you can learn quickly and we're not learning quickly enough obviously. But it just felt like we're swinging the bat.

"Every time we start the field and any moment that we may not hit on everyone. And give credit again to a tremendous quarterback who's had a tremendous career obviously at Texas. You just knew plays were going to continue to be made. We had to match it a little bit later in the game. But, we got that take away with five minutes to go in the game, I think the great lesson there is, again, the game's not over and you can't assume that it is and it’s inappropriate to do so. And I thought our focus up until that point was really, really good. And I think it broke there a little bit which again, as coaches we're going to make sure we maintain that regardless of what takes place. (It’s) fortunate I thought that (our) focus in terms of our effort and wants, kind of came back there in the overtimes and again my credit to them they made plays in but again found a way to win the end.” 

On Sam Ehlinger

“Yeah. And then part of our thought process was just that they’re going to put the ball in his hands one way or another. And, his ability to, he's a difficult guy to tackle, with size. I mean, he has a unique ability to make guys miss. I think part of that is the willingness to take the hit, which a lot of makes him a little bit different than a lot of quarterbacks and his ability to run through contact. But no, we're very conscious of him.

"In overtime, I thought there was one particular call that, which may or may not have been a hold on when he got loose for the one (touchdown) but, mine is sad. We were well aware of the fact that there was a good chance that ball was going to be in his hands one way or another which again goes back to that, that's a great thought process, but you always have to look at it from the element of he also had the ability to beat you with his arm. So a little bit easier said than done in terms of saying that one time, all we have to do is tackle the quarterback. But certainly that was a major piece of it and (he tried) to beat us with the arm at the end and Tre Brown made a play.”

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