NCAA Football

Reaction: Sooners defense resets against TCU

Oklahoma linebacker Curtis Bolton (18) sacks TCU quarterback Michael Collins (10) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. Oklahoma won 52-27. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Reaction: Sooners defense resets against TCU

FINAL: Oklahoma (6-1): 52, Texas Christian (3-4): 27

You had to wonder if, somewhere, Oklahoma’s former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was watching the Sooners’s 52-27 road victory over the Texas Christian Horned Frogs.

If indeed he was, his state of mind might have hovered between pride (“Hey, my guys played pretty well!)  and exasperation (“They finally decided to get a red zone stop after I was fired?!”). Two weeks after an awful performance in the Cotton Bowl against Texas, and one week after a scheduled bye, the Sooners finally showed improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

It wasn’t a total facelift. It wasn’t perfect. And they certainly weren’t playing a good offensive team. But it was a reset week for the defense, and it effectively clears the slate for them moving forward.

That’s not to say the Sooners’s defense came on like gangbusters, though. Although the unit must be commended for only allowing 275 yards of offense (and for securing one especially timely fourth quarter interception), they should also be criticized for allowing 17 points in about an eight minute span late in the second quarter, opening the door for a potential TCU comeback.

Special teams mistakes and penalties also nipped at the Sooners’s heels throughout the half. Mental mistakes and missed opportunities reigned supreme. There was faulty coverage, and there were missed tackles. There were admittedly shades of what has plagued this unit for years now.

But without the aforementioned special teams errors and a few boneheaded penalties, it would look even better. TCU never scored on a full field on any of their offensive possessions, and a 15-yard celebration penalty opened the door for KaVonte Turpin to return a kickoff for six points.

It was a good game for the defense, and they were just a few plays away and a bad second quarter away from having a great one.

The much-hyped true freshman Brendan (Bookie) Radley-Hiles had a chance to slam the door early in the quarter, and one can’t help but think that TCU wouldn’t have been able to mount any sort of offensive effort if they had been deflated by a turnover.

Despite their mistakes, it was still a much-improved performance. Remember: this isn’t a new defense. It’s the same one — just resetting. Clean slate.

Trailing by 28-24 at halftime to the Sooners, TCU had a chance to keep it a competitive game. Fortunately for the Sooners, their high-octane offense and improved defensive play in the second half kept the Horned Frogs at arm’s length or better.

The second half was much better for the defense as they took advantage of TCU’s subpar quarterback play (Shawn Robinson, the starter, was pulled after just eight attempts). They didn’t quite pitch a second half shutout, but Sooners fans will happily live with giving up just three points.

Michael Collins, the backup grad transfer, provided a spark in the first half but, as with the rest of his team, he was stifled in the second. Collins finished 7-0f-17 attempts with two scores and an interception. KaVonte Turpin, TCU’s main offensive weapon, caught five passes for 62 yards with one receiving touchdown. Turpin also returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score.

Offensively, the Sooners were effective as ever, seemingly marching down the field at will. Heisman candidate quarterback Kyler Murray was mostly mistake-free, throwing for 213 yards and four touchdowns. A 37-yard touchdown connection to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was an especially impressive play by Murray, throwing it while scrambling right and off of one foot.

In the backfield, Kennedy Brooks separated himself from Trey Sermon, who was apparently injured in the fourth quarter and did not return. Although Sermon was effective in his time in the game (17 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns), Brooks was clearly the better runner. I would not be surprised to see him in the feature back role for the duration of the season.

The Sooners will return home for the first time since August 29th. They’ll play the Kansas State Wildcats (3-4) at 2:30.

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