Jaren Kanak looking more and more comfortable at linebacker

There was 9:57 left in the third quarter. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane had driven the field with ease for the third time in their last four drives.

It was third-and-goal from the 2. Tulsa quarterback Cardell Williams dropped back to pass, and Jaren Kanak came rushing through the hole, flushing Williams out to his right.

At this moment, my first thought was, “Well he’s going to run it in for the score.”

I thought that because that’s what I had grown accustomed to with the Oklahoma Sooners defense the last decade.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, Kanak continued to gain ground on Williams, forcing an errant throw that should have been picked off by Peyton Bowen. Tulsa was held to a field goal and never was close to scoring again.

Why am I highlighting that play? It’s not a play that will be remembered or will show up on the stat sheet, but that’s a play Oklahoma doesn’t make in recent memory because they don’t have the athlete playing linebacker as they do now with Kanak and Danny Stutsman.

Kanak told reporters the confidence the defense is playing with starts with Stutsman.

“When you have a leader like that, someone that everyone can get behind that lifts everyone up, it’s awesome to play behind someone like that,” Kanak said.

That confidence is noticeable by everyone playing on the defense so far. You can tell by the way they react to plays and how they don’t look confused as often as a season ago.

That being said, the one negative you could bring up from Saturday’s game is the third-down defense. Tulsa converted 8 of 19 attempts and at one point was 8 of 16.

Kanak said that’s something they have to do a better job of defending.

“Obviously, we struggled a little bit on third down, and that comes with preparation and being more keen on our details,” Kanak said. “Just really buckling down and just being locked into our details and in those situations, not fold and knowing what’s going on.”

This was the only game they’ve struggled on third down defensively. Even then, they held Tulsa under 50% conversion for the game. Eventually, they righted the ship by stopping Tulsa on its final three attempts.

But that wasn’t the only thing they need to improve going forward, this is far from a perfect team, but the confidence from the team this year compared to last year is night and day.

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Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire