Tramel: Nothing passive about the OU defense in 33-14 rout of TCU
FORT WORTH, Texas — On the game’s first snap, Isaiah Thomas had a bead on Max Duggan. A clear shot at the TCU quarterback. But Thomas hesitated.
That’s what offenses make defenses do these days; hesitate, with all the wonderful toys available in scheme and talent.
So OU’s defensive end missed the tackle on Duggan, who safely threw the ball away. And Thomas said, no more.
“I knew that wasn’t the gameplan that we had,” Thomas said. “I told myself from that point on, I would be aggressive.”
Aggressive indeed was Thomas. And all his band of defensive brothers. A beleaguered OU defense had one of its better days of recent seasons, dominating the Horned Frogs in the Sooners’ 33-14 victory.
When OU’s defense trotted into the field with 6:17 left in the game, the Frogs had seven points and 226 total yards. TCU had some garbage-time success, but Saturday was no time to quibble. The Sooner D played great, constantly harassing Duggan and the Frog offense.
“We’ll win a lot of games when the other team scores 14 points” total, said OU quarterback Spencer Rattler, who engineered a big-play offense.
Going into the fourth quarter, Thomas glanced at the scoreboard and was somewhat startled.
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“I was like, ‘wow, we held them to seven thus far,’” Thomas said. “If we keep playing games like this, we’re definitely going to win a lot of games, because you can’t beat Lincoln Riley and our offense putting up just seven points. It’s just not going to happen.”
That’s sort of what everyone has been saying the last 4½ seasons, when the Sooner defense has vacillated between mediocre and porous. Including this season.
But not Saturday. The Sooners came at Duggan hard. OU sacked Duggan thrice and had six other tackles for loss. Seven of those nine plays were TCU losses of at least three yards. Those kinds of plays help kill a drive.
“That's something that is always a part of the game plan, aggressiveness,” safety Brendan Radley-Hiles said. “Passiveness is never the answer, as coach (Alex) Grinch would say. Playing in the backfield, our d-line, they went to work today. Proud of them. Every chance I got, I was congratulating them.”
TCU had a few big plays, but the Sooners can live with those. None went for touchdowns, and OU played well enough in the middle of the field to stymie long drives. Other than their two touchdown drives, including a score in the final four minutes, the Frogs never penetrated the Sooner 30-yard line.
Linemen Perrion Winfrey, Josh Ellison, Thomas, Marcus Stripling, Kori Roberson, LaRon Stokes and Jordan Kelley all were active. Kelley blew up a shovel-pass reverse that might have gone big but instead was a seven-yard loss.
“It was just the gameplan we had, be aggressive,” Thomas said. “Have fun and fly around and not think too much about your job.
“On that first play, I was thinking too much when I could have had the sack as opposed to holding my hands up and trying to stop the pass.”
Not too many times in recent years has the Sooner defense had fun on Saturdays. But it had a blast in Amon Carter Stadium.
And when the fourth quarter arrived, with a big lead but with a history of blown big leads this season, Thomas admitted that he thought of the meltdowns.
“Of course, we didn’t really say much about it, but it crossed our minds,” Thomas said. “Like, ‘OK, this is a similar situation we’ve been in during the last several games. Let’s not let what happened in those games before, happen tonight. Obviously, we put our foot on the gas and ran away with it in the end. Great feeling to really close out a game. It builds up confidence for the next several games we have. We know now we can do it.”
TCU is no offensive juggernaut. But Duggan and Co. did score 33 points on Texas. And don’t look now, but Big 12 offensive firepower has diminished this season. This Sooner defense showed Saturday it can hold its own, when it learned that passiveness is never the answer.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.