NORMAN — Kenneth Mann is one of two returning Oklahoma players who forced at least two fumbles last season.
So far this autumn, he’s come up empty.
“I have been close,” Mann said. “But close isn’t good enough.”
OU has forced five turnovers, which currently ranks last in the Big 12. Its opponents have fumbled just three times and only one loose ball has fallen into the hands of a Sooner — a muffed punt by Baylor’s Chris Platt that was largely unforced.
The Sooners are on pace for one of their lowest turnover outputs in years. Since 2007, only the 2011 team had five forced turnovers going into Week 8, while the program’s other 10 teams in that span averaged at least 12.
With Saturday’s game at TCU (11 a.m., ABC) as the next opportunity, ninth-ranked OU is emphasizing turnovers as much as ever.
“I mean, I was just playing hard and the plays came to me,” Mann said of the fumbles he forced last year. “I feel like the same thing’s going happen as this season goes on.”
Turnovers can result from calculated effort, but are often random, too.
“It’s being in the right place at the right time, a lot of times,” OU interim defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said.
OU’s also working through more fundamental defensive challenges, like bringing ball carriers down immediately. McNeill says that’s the first priority. Tackling has been an eyesore over the Sooners’ past four games, culminating in a 48-45 loss to Texas that has OU’s hopes for a fourth consecutive Big 12 championship on thin ice.
Tuesday’s practice was a tackling day, McNeill said. The heaviest emphasis on turnovers occurs on Wednesdays.
Takeaways don’t always equal more victories. OU’s 2014 team had 15 by this point in the season and sat 2-2 in Big 12 play before eventually finishing 8-5 overall.
But more offensive possessions for the current Sooners would seemingly increase the odds of winning, since OU moves the ball as efficiently as anyone in the country. Its 58.7 offensive plays per game ranks 128th out of 129 FBS teams, while its 524.7 yards per game ranks ninth.
More possessions, more scoring drives and more points can compensate for a defense that’s still navigating hard times a little more than a week after coordinator Mike Stoops’ dismissal.
“We teach one thing to be greedy about, and it’s getting turnovers because it gets the ball to our offense,” McNeill said.
Which is why linebacker Kenneth Murray was kicking himself during the Iowa State game when he tracked down a receiver on a flare route and missed an interception, even though the play was ultimately negated by a penalty.
“I was mad on that,” Murray said.
Those are precious chances missed.
“When the opportunity does come to force a fumble or get an interception, we have to capitalize on those opportunities,” sophomore cornerback Tre Norwood said. “We have to get the ball back to our offense.”
Oklahoma at TCU
Time: 11 a.m., Saturday
Place: Amon G. Carter Stadium | Fort Worth, Texas
Records: OU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12); TCU (3-3, 1-2)
Line: OU (-8)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7