When a defense gives up 48 points in a game, it’s not a good day. Generally, there’s very little silver lining to be found. On Saturday, however, in the Red River Showdown, the Oklahoma Sooners’ defense found a way to bounce back from a rough first half to come away with a dramatic 55-48 win over the Texas Longhorns.
It started terribly as Xavier Woods broke tackles and used speed to run away from the Speed D on his way to a 75-yard catch and run for a touchdown that left Oklahoma stunned. As we saw throughout the game, Xavier Worthy is a problem with the ball in his hands, but the defense’s poor angles and tackling didn’t help matters much.
After that big play from the Longhorns, the Oklahoma Sooners offense and special teams gave Texas excellent field position.
After the Sooners went three and out following Worthy’s touchdown to open the game, Michael Turk had his punt blocked, and the Longhorns recovered on the two-yard line. Two plays later, Texas scored, making it 14-0.
While the first touchdown you can place squarely on the shoulders of the OU defense, special teams own that second one.
After Oklahoma responded with a 10-play touchdown drive, the Sooners’ defense forced a three and out, allowing OU to get the game all square after spotting Texas with a 14 point lead in the first two minutes of the game.
Unfortunately, the Sooners couldn’t do anything with the ball as Spencer Rattler threw an interception three plays later, setting the Longhorns up with really good field position at their 49-yard line.
Spencer Rattler’s fumble would put them in another bad spot as the Longhorns would only need to go 55 yards for the touchdown to extend the lead to 35-17.
A field goal at the end of the half would make it 38-20 in favor of the Longhorns, and the defense got a much-needed break. The first half was one of the worst halves of defense this team has played in several years. Sure, the short fields didn’t help, but Texas pretty much did what they wanted in the opening 30 minutes of the game.
The second half, however, was a much different story.
After halftime, the Oklahoma Sooners defense responded to their poor first-half performance and was a huge reason the Sooners won the Red River Showdown.
After allowing Bijan Robinson to run for 102 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in the first half. Robinson totaled 41 yards rushing on nine attempts in the second half, averaging just 4.55 yards per carry. That’s a vast difference from the 9.27 yards per carry he averaged in the first half.
The Texas passing game also struggled in the second half as the Sooners’ defense began to get more pressure on Casey Thompson when put into second and third and long situations.
In the first half, Thompson completed 10 of 16 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 15.25 yards per attempt, completing 62% of his passes. Now, a lot of that was the big catch and run by Worthy on the first play of the game. Even if you take that away, Thompson was still nine of 15 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. That’s a 60% completion percentage and a whopping 13.4 yards per attempt.
In the second half of the game, the Sooners’ defense allowed Thomspon to complete 10 of 18 passes for a much more reasonable 144 yards and a touchdown. The yards per attempt dropped to eight, and Thompson’s completion percentage dropped to 55%.
The final score will show 48 points, but it isn’t reflective of the turnaround the Oklahoma Sooners defense made after halftime. Whether it was adjustments or being challenged to perform, a completely different unit harrassed Casey Thompson and limited Bijan Robinson.
The Oklahoma defense has looked good in spurts this year, though they haven’t quite been the dominant force we expected them to be. Missing two of your best players in Woodi Washington and Jalen Redmond will do that, but the Sooners defense is finding ways to get stops and rebounding from poor performances.
They’ll have a huge task ahead of them this week against a TCU offense that just rushed for more than 300 yards against Texas Tech. Seeing how the defense responded on Saturday to a poor first half, they’ll be up for the challenge.