NORMAN — Jordan Evans knew he needed to be better. Much better.
After all, time is running out.
Oklahoma’s senior linebacker went into Saturday’s game against Baylor realzing he was down to his final three regular season games.
“The clock,” he said, “is ticking.”
And frankly, Evans wasn’t.
Counted on as one of the leaders of a young, inexperienced defense that enduring major injury issues every week, Evans totaled just three tackles in his last game, a stress-free win over Iowa State. He also had three a month ago in an easy win over Kansas State. Those are not the type of offenses that an inside linebacker should have just three tackles.
And who could forget Evans calling himself out for loafing on plays throughout the Texas Tech debacle?
Evans atoned big-time on Saturday in a 45-24 victory over the Bears with nine tackles, two quarterback sacks, two interceptions and two passes broken up. OU says he’s the first player in school history with two interceptions and two sacks in the same game. One of his picks was nearly returned for a touchdown.
Against one of the Big 12 Conference’s most lethal offenses, Evans was simply spectacular. Baylor came in averaging 39.8 points and 542 yards per game, but Saturday’s totals of 24 points and 504 yards included drives of 75, 62 and 74 yards after the game was in hand. As Baylor was snapping the ball 91 times and converting 4-of-6 fourth-down plays, Evans was the Sooners’ anchor.
“I don’t know what got into him,” said freshman Caleb Kelly.
“I’m just proud of him for accepting some accountability,” said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
Now the Sooners (8-2 overall, 7-0 Big 12 Conference) head to Morgantown next week to take on a West Virginia team (8-1, 5-1) that has strong designs on a championship.
Which is why Evans and the OU defense are playing better.
“It’s championship November,” Evans said. “Defense wins championships. Offense has been carrying us all year, so I figure if we do our part, we should just steamroll these last few games.”
Just three weeks ago, Evans was jogging all over the field as Texas Tech piled up 59 points and 854 yards (most ever by an OU opponent, among several NCAA records set that night). He said two days later he was embarrassed watching himself on film.
He’ll be a bit more satisfied reviewing Saturday’s effort against Baylor.
“I should’ve never loafed the first place,” he said, “but yeah, I didn’t want to go out looking like I did.”
He said teammates held him accountable, and he held himself accountable. That’s all Mike Stoops wanted to hear.
“He’s a better player than that,” Mike Stoops said. “We rely on him to be a consistent player inside. We put a lot on his plate. He kind of organizes the whole defense. And he’s a very smart player. But I’m glad to see him make some plays now and start to gain some confidence back and gain some rhythm in his game. It comes at a good time. We’re starting to play a little more consistently as a group and our positioning on the football is better. He’s an important part of what we’re doing.”
“He made some nice plays,” Bob Stoops said. “Every day is different. You play a different team every week. Different quarterback, different receivers, different schemes. He’s an excellent athlete. He’s got good hands, he’s rangy, he can play in space. He did a really good job today.”
Bob Stoops said Evans “didn’t do anything different,” but that’s downplaying Evans’ self-improvement efforts.
“He has to play good in the middle of our defense for us to be successful,” Mike Stoops said. “He knows that, and he’s really come on when we needed it most.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.