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John E. Hoover: A tweak in the defense vs. Texas Tech, and Sooners soar from desolate to dominant

John E. Hoover: A tweak in the defense vs. Texas Tech, and Sooners soar from desolate to dominant

Oklahoma defensive end D.J. Ward (87) sacks Texas Tech quarterback Nic Shimonek (16) on Saturday in Norman. Oklahoma won 49-27. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops looked at the scoreboard: 20 points.

He glanced at the statistics: 211 yards allowed.

Not bad — if it had been for an entire game. These, however, were Texas Tech’s numbers in the first quarter.

Stoops might have had a recurrence of PTSD from last year’s game in Lubbock, a 66-59 OU victory in which the Red Raiders amassed 854 yards total offense.

“I thought maybe this was on track for ’16 again,” he said.

Instead, Stoops made an in-game adjustment — he switched from a 3-man defensive line to a 4-man front — and the Sooners began to control the Tech running game.

“Made some good adjustments in the run game,” said head coach Lincoln Riley, “and they really didn’t get much after that.”

The result was three quarters of defensive domination and a 49-27 Oklahoma victory on Saturday night at Owen Field.

The No. 10-ranked Sooners improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Big 12 Conference play ahead of next week’s big Bedlam showdown in Stillwater against No. 11 Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1).

“I think it’s gonna be a great atmosphere,” Riley said. “Gonna be a great college football setting. It’s been an important game both in the Big 12 and in the national scene for the last several years. They’ve got a great football team, and these are the kind of games you love to go play in.”

Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews (81) celebrates following a touchdown against Texas Tech. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Riley said there will be some carryover next week due to similarities in the OSU offense to what Texas Tech does. If that holds, the Cowboys may have trouble running the ball.

With Tre King getting loose for 61 yards on 11 carries, the Red Raiders (4-4, 1-4) ran for 72 yards in the first quarter alone. That set up quarterback Nic Shimonek’s passing game, and he went 7-of-7 for 139 yards with three touchdowns.

Tech quickly scored touchdowns on drives of 75, 82 and 69 yards, then managed more than 30 yards on a possession only twice after that — one of those ended with a goal-line stand — and failed to score on eight of its last nine drives.

Oklahoma defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (31) celebrates another sack in the Sooners’ 49-27 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday night in Norman. Okoronkwo now has a Big 12 Conference-best seven sacks on the season. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

OU has played mostly a three-man front this season, but has switched back and forth depending on the opponent. The Red Raiders game-planned well for the Sooners’ odd front, but had few answers for the even front.

“They had a good plan for it schematically, what they were doing, blocking it,” Stoops said. “We just couldn’t control the run game, and if you can’t control the run game, you’re gonna have a rough day.”

Deploying fewer defensive linemen has allowed Stoops to put more linebackers and defensive backs on the field to bolster pass coverage — “our Achilles’ heel,” Stoops said — and the “umbrella” scheme has helped.

“We tried to protect our corners today in some of that umbrella, and we couldn’t control the run,” Stoops said. “So now it puts you into this (four-man front) and now they’re back out there on an island a little bit. You know, gotta make some plays. Gotta contest things. And at times, I thought our coverage was tighter. We made (Shimonek) put it in some windows. He missed some throws.”

Tech picked up 211 yards and averaged 10 yards per play in the first quarter. But in the final three quarters, the Red Raiders managed just 226 yards and averaged just 4.6 yards per play.

Meanwhile, against a Texas Tech defense that came in ranked last in the Big 12 in passing yards allowed (291.3 per game), seventh in total yards allowed (426.1 per game) and eighth in points allowed (30.9 per game), the Sooners feasted.

Baker Mayfield was “awful,” he said, but still completed 22-of-34 passes for 281 yards with four touchdowns. He threw his third interception of the season, got himself sacked once and missed three receivers for potential touchdowns.

“I didn’t play my best game at all,” he said. “Wasn’t accurate, which is uncharacteristic of me. I’ll get that fixed.”

If he doesn’t, he can always lean on an increasingly powerful running game.

Rodney Anderson upped his career-high again with 181 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while Abdul Adams returned from an ankle injury to post 95 yards on 10 carries. The Sooners rushed for 336 yards and three touchdowns in all.

Freshman CeeDee Lamb also appears back from a shoulder injury, catching nine passes for 147 yards and two TDs — including one on the goal line on which he took a big hit and resulted in a targeting penalty.

“To see a true freshman go across and know he’s gonna get hit by a safety like that and then secure the ball, hold onto it and just pop right back up and be fine, we haven’t had a guy like that here in a while,” Mayfield said. “He’s a great playmaker, but also he’s a physical presence.”

Maybe best of all, Riley, Stoops and the rest of the Sooner coaching staff didn’t have to spend their halftime break screaming at the players to pick up their intensity and give better effort like they did last week at Kansas State.

“I thought our intensity,” Riley said, “was pretty good.

“It was one of our more complete games, honestly. It really was, as a team. … I thought our mentality, energy level, physicality was really good the whole night.

“We took some steps forward. There’s no doubt. We know we’ve got to get better, but we’re trending in the right direction at the right time of year.”

And what time of year is that?

“You know, it’s getting ready to be Championship November, and that’s our favorite time of year around here,” Riley said. “We’re excited about it. The conference is really darn good. It’s the best conference in football right now, and top to bottom, you see it. There’s a lot of great teams in this league. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun. A lot of eyes in the country are gonna be on it, and we’re looking forward to being a part of it.”

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Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.

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Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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