• Two weeks after the Red River Rivalry shootout, Oklahoma's defense did enough against TCU to help the Sooners win comfortably.
By Scooby Axson
October 20, 2018

Oklahoma’s defense issues have been well documented, leading head coach Lincoln Riley to recently make the unusual midseason decision of making an example out of Mike Stoops. Riley gave his defensive coordinator a well-deserved pink slip after the Sooners allowed a pedestrian Texas offense to waltz up and down the field in a 48–45 upset victory two weeks ago at the Cotton Bowl.

So, the Sooners went back to the drawing board during their bye week, promoting defensive line coach Ruffin McNeill to interim defensive coordinator and simplifying things to let the four-and five-star recruits littered throughout the roster use their ability to make plays.

In Oklahoma’s 52–27 win over TCU, its fifth straight over the Horned Frogs, that back-to-basics approach worked, as the Sooners allowed a season-low 275 total yards, logged an interception and held TCU to 3.7 rushing yards per attempt. Coming into Saturday’s game, Oklahoma ranked 97th in total defense—allowing an average of 421 yards—and had yet to see an opposing red zone possession not result in a score.

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After TCU’s starting QB Shawn Robinson was benched in the second quarter, McNeill’s unit started to show leaks against backup Michael Collins. Behind Collins, the Horned Frogs needed only 11 plays to turn a three-touchdown deficit into a 28–24 one at halftime.

The way to mitigate a less-than-stellar defense is to keep the opponent’s offense on the sideline. Riley worked this to perfection on Saturday, as the Sooners held the ball for 37 minutes. Once they built a two-possession lead, they dominated on the ground, running 11 consecutive run plays to start the fourth quarter.

Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks ran for 168 yards on the day, and Trey Sermon, who was injured late in the fourth quarter added 110, all part of a 323-yard rushing effort by the Sooners. Heisman candidate Kyler Murray had 212 yards passing and four touchdowns through the air, two of which went to Lee Morris.

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