OU football: Parnell Motley riding the wave at cornerback for the Sooners
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It's been a roller coaster season for Oklahoma junior cornerback Parnell Motley.
There's been the highs of a game-clinching overtime interception against Army early in the season and the lows of an abysmal performance against Texas in a loss that cost him his starting job.
Plenty of it has been self-inflicted and some of it hasn't (Big 12 officials told Lincoln Riley that Motley's pass interference penalty against Texas Tech that wiped out an interception should not have been called). But in a time where it's hard to find bright spots in a defense that has struggled, Motley has been one for the Sooners.
With West Virginia's potent passing game, particularly the touchdown magnet that senior receiver David Sills V has become, Motley figures to be even more crucial Friday (7 p.m., ESPN).
“One thing you do bad, everybody is against you; one thing you do good, it's all applause,” Motley said. “Keep fighting and ignoring the noise and playing to the best of your ability until you have nothing left in you.
“Playing cornerback is a hit-and-miss job.”
It'll also likely be Motley's last chance to perform relatively close to home as a Sooner. Motley is from Washington, D.C.
In the past two games, Oklahoma's defense has surrendered 1,270 yards of total offense — 621 through the air.
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But the big misses that plagued Motley through much of the season were largely absent.
“I thought he was our most aggressive DB physically; came up and made some aggressive plays, some aggressive stops on some of those flat patterns they were throwing,” Riley said this week. “We need some of our other DBs to play with the aggressiveness that he played with.”
Riley also praised Motley's play in Bedlam, saying he was the best cornerback on the field for the Sooners in another otherwise sloppy defensive performance.
Motley started 13 games a season ago, beating out Jordan Parker in a preseason competition. This year, he started the first six before being replaced by Tre Brown, though he still gets significant playing time.
Motley leads the Sooners with three interceptions including one since the switch. No other OU player has more than one interception.
“I really felt like after we made the switch, we started Brown and (Tre) Norwood out there, that lit a bit of a fire under him,” Riley said. “I've been proud of the way he's stepped up since we backed him up to second string.”
The aggressiveness Riley mentioned figures to come in handy against the Mountaineers.
Last week, Oklahoma State slowed down Sills — four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown — by getting physical with him at the line of scrimmage.
That can exacerbate the boom-and-bust nature of pass defense for the Sooners, but it's better than bust-and-bust.
“Eventually, plays are going to come at you,” Motley said. “You just have to react and play football. I might not always make the best play … (but) at the end of the day, just keep fighting.”