Fixing the Defense
TCU’s offense is not to be trifled with. The Horned Frogs average 46.3 points and 510 yards per game. They have fleet receivers, a powerful running game and a quarterback who is clever, experienced and efficient.
Kansas State’s offense came into last week’s game in Norman without nearly the offensive credentials, and yet the Wildcats did whatever they wanted at times against the Sooner defense.
Is OU in trouble in Fort Worth? With some similarities in KState and TCU’s offensive methodology, can the Sooner defense get it fixed quickly?
“There’s not one magic bullet,” said defensive coordinator Ted Roof. “It’s a process that you are going through. Part of it is a grow and learning processing. Part of it is identifying it, which we certainly have, and drilling it to fix it. That’s the process.”
OU needs to rush the passer more effectively, boxing in Max Duggan rather than sprinting up field to give him escape lanes, like they did last week against K-State’s Adrian Martinez. The Sooner linebackers need to cover their underneath zones better rather than staring at the quarterback while tight ends and backs run unfettered.
“It all works together,” Roof said. “ … The exactness of it, that’s something we just fell short.”
Don’t Get Sloppy
The Sooners and the Horned Frogs are tied for second nationally with just one giveaway. Yet both defenses have been opportunistic. TCU is plus-3 in turnover margin, while OU is plus-4.
So taking care of the football is probably more important than ever. Possessions are at a premium.
Neither quarterback (OU’s Dillon Gabriel nor TCU’s Max Duggan) have thrown an interception yet this season. That can’t change Saturday.
“Coach (Joe) Gillespie (TCU’s new defensive coordinator) has got them playing incredibly hard and tough and physical,” said OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. “They've created some turnovers with four picks, but a group that's disciplined, that's tough. We're gonna need to be at our best on Saturday morning.”
The team that gets sloppy with the football will be at a significant disadvantage.
TCU’s pass defense ranks 107th in the nation, and the Frogs are 100th in yards per completion allowed (12.77).
Oklahoma’s passing game, which ranks 24th in the nation in yards per completion (13.91), has some distinct advantages with Marvin Mims, Theo Wease, Jalil Farooq and Drake Stoops catching passes from Dillon Gabriel.
The magic has to happen, though. Gabriel has missed some deep throws in his first four games, including a big one last week against Kansas State. He’ll need to be on target against the Horned Frogs.
“It’s a slim margin for error to be good to great,” Gabriel said. “We're extremely critical. … We’re all focused on being great, not necessarily good.”
Also, the Sooners need to clean up some of the pre-snap penalties that wrecked so many drives against K-State.
“I think the most frustrating part for me and for us,” Lebby said, “is that we go on the road last week in front of an unbelievable crowd and we have zero pre-snap penalties. We had zero non-playing penalties on the road, then we do what we did today. From a consistency standpoint, that can’t happen.”