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College Sports: Why Oklahoma isn’t worried about its struggling defense heading into the Red River Showdown vs. Texas

In the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief, acceptance represents the last step.

After last week’s game against Baylor, it sounded like Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops might have found his way there after Baylor put up 493 total yards in a 66-33 loss to the Sooners.

“There aren’t any good days coaching defense in this league,” Stoops said. “It’s absurd, but that’s the absurdity that we live with week in and week out. Every coach in this league has to deal with it. You deal with it in the best way you can.”

Going into the annual Red River Showdown with Texas, the Sooners are all too aware about bad things happening to what looked like a good defense. The Baylor performance even prompted a GIF of a frustrated-looking Stoops watching from the press box.

There was the Army game, when the Black Knights’ triple-option possessed the ball for 44:41 out of 60 minutes in regulation. And if you want to time travel back to last season, consider the Rose Bowl, when Georgia averaged 9.3 yards per rush. Or Oklahoma State putting up 52 points and 661 yards on the Sooners in a loss.

Despite Stoops’ frustration and while Big 12 defenses can still live down to national stereotypes, teams like TCU, Iowa State and Texas have shown the ability to play solid defense. Each is allowing less than 335 yards per game.

Oklahoma ranks ninth in the Big 12 in total defense, allowing 405.2 yards a game.

There might be a tendency to say Roy Williams, Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy aren’t walking through that tunnel into the Cotton Bowl. But Oklahoma doesn’t lack for defensive talent.

Linebackers Kenneth Murray and Curtis Bolton are producing amazing tackling numbers. Murray had 45 tackles in the last two games against Army and Baylor, while Bolton had 40.

“Everybody tells me about the 45,” Murray said this week, “but I can’t get out of my mind the five [tackles] I missed.”

Freshman safety Brendan Radley-Hiles is viewed as the next big thing in the Oklahoma secondary.

Despite the recent inconsistency after strong early showings against Florida Atlantic and UCLA, Murray says he likes where the defense is now.

“We’re never going to have a perfect game,” Murray said. “We’re going to have to fight through adversity. As long as we continue to fight and fight through it, that’s all you can ask. When you get hit with adversity, either you’re going to fold or you’re going to fight, and the last few weeks we’ve been fighting.”

While Texas isn’t an elite offense by a long shot, the Longhorns did put together five drives of more than 10 plays against Kansas State despite generating just 10 points as an offense. The first three drives against K-State totaled 11, 11 and 13 plays — the sort of ball-control formula that could keep Oklahoma’s offense on the sideline.

Depth is a question mark on the Oklahoma defense, which has faced 188 plays over the last two games.

The Sooners haven’t gotten much of a break either. The offense had 10 scoring drives against Baylor, with none lasting longer than 2:57.

Stoops even found a sense of humor about the numbers this week, joking with Oklahoma beat writers about the offense.

“If they can score 60 every game, I feel confident we can win every game,” Stoops said.

Twitter: @ChuckCarltonDMN

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