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‘I’ve got to do a better job’: Alex Grinch, OU defense back to drawing board after Baylor upset

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Alex Grinch

Defensive coordinator and safeties coach Alex Grinch after the game against No. 13 Baylor in Waco on Nov. 13.

WACO — Lincoln Riley and the Sooners re-emerged hopeful from the visiting locker room at McLane Stadium. 

Halftime ended with Oklahoma deadlocked in a 7-7 tie with Baylor. Entering the third quarter, Riley thought his team was ready to play. However, the head coach quickly realized things weren’t about to go OU’s way.

Redshirt junior kicker Gabe Brkic’s opening second-half kickoff never reached the north end zone of John Eddie Williams Field and instead flew out of bounds, allowing the Bears to start their drive at their own 35-yard line. Baylor went 51 yards in seven plays on the possession and capped it with a 32-yard field goal. In response, freshman quarterback Caleb Williams tossed his second interception of the day during the Sooners’ next drive — setting the tone for the rest of the game.

No. 8 Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) suffered a 27-14 road upset to No. 13 Baylor (8-2, 5-2) on Saturday, marking its first loss to the Bears since 2014. While the Sooners’ offense scored its fewest points since the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl — a 40-6 loss to Clemson — Oklahoma’s defense collapsed in the second half. The unit surrendered 148 rushing yards on 20 carries to Baylor running back Abram Smith, the most it’s allowed to a single player this season.

“I think, at the end of the game, some frustration certainly set in there,” Riley said. “We didn’t do our job. … I'm proud of where we played in the first half. But obviously, (in) the second half, we didn't execute. I thought our tackling was not up to par. … With some of these big plays, when you’ve got two or three guys there, we've got to finish them.”

Smith’s longest run of the night came on a 75-yard dash to OU’s 8-yard line with 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The run set up a five-yard touchdown scramble by Bears quarterback Gerry Bohanon one play later.

Bohanon ended the game with 107 rushing yards — the most OU’s allowed to a quarterback this season — and two touchdowns on nine carries. He went 12-of-21 through the air for 117 yards, a touchdown and an interception, which was caught by senior safety Delarrin Turner-Yell in the second quarter

In Baylor’s 30-28 loss to TCU on Nov. 6, Bohanon finished with 214 passing yards, three touchdowns and two picks on 14-of-20 attempts with only 15 rushing yards.

“We say don't let one play beat you — I think we kind of let one play beat us,” said defensive coordinator Alex Grinch of the Bears’ quarterback run game. “And I think as much as anything after that you're trying to eliminate that one play from happening again. Well, you can't correct the one that's already in the books and that probably affected us. So, I’ve got to do a better job.

“I thought the kids battled their tails off. They really did. It's a 60-minute football game and so it's not OK to not get it done in the end. But, a couple times there in the fourth quarter, we’ve got to put them in a better position to be successful, specifically myself in terms of play calls.” 

A bright spot on the Sooners’ defense came from redshirt junior linebacker Brian Asamoah, who ended with 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. The Columbus, Ohio, native entered the game with 51 tackles on the season.

“Brian played phenomenal,” said senior defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas. “He was all over the place. … It looked like Kenneth Murray flying left to right, sideline to sideline. He’s impressive to see. Coach (Brian) Odom talked to him after the game and he said, ‘You played your ass off. Just keep doing what you’re doing.’ We’ll build on this, go back to the drawing board and be just fine.”

OU’s loss on Saturday moves it out of sole possession of first place in the Big 12 and into a tie with No. 10 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys face the Sooners on Nov. 27 in Stillwater, a week after they host Iowa State on Nov. 20. The Cyclones fell to Texas Tech 41-38 on Saturday.

For the Sooners to remain in the race for their seventh consecutive Big 12 title, the drawing board Thomas wants to revisit may not need to be very complex. Grinch still believes consistent tackling has been his unit’s most damning issue.

“We've got to make sure, as much as anything from a blocks destruction standpoint, that we're making sure that it’s not just one guy in the position to make some of those plays,” Grinch said. “I felt at times (we’re) so concerned with one particular run play … and then all of a sudden the quarterback keeps it. It's too late in November to talk about tackling. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching it, obviously.”

Chandler Engelbrecht is a journalism senior and the Daily's assistant sports editor. He currently covers OU football and has previously covered OU men's basketball, volleyball and men's gymnastics.

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