News Flash: Oklahoma defense rises

Tom Dienhart
Yahoo! Sports

Lost amid the buzz that has surrounded the terrific play of Oklahoma redshirt freshman quarterback Landry Jones in place of the injured Sam Bradford has been the effort of the Sooners' defense under coordinator Brent Venables.

Since losing to BYU, 14-13, in the opener when Bradford was hurt, Oklahoma has posted consecutive shutouts against Idaho State and Tulsa. It's the first time OU has achieved the feat since 1987. The Sooners are off this week before heading to Miami for a pivotal game on Oct 3.

"It has been a combination of our experience and front four," Venables said. "It is a very explosive group of players who all started last year. Experience is everything, being sure of yourself."

Oklahoma ranks first in the Big 12 and ninth in the nation in total defense (223.3 ypg). The rushing defense has been especially strong, ranking No. 1 in the nation, allowing 40.7 yards per game and just 1.2 yards per carry with no rushing touchdowns. Again, credit a line that features ends Auston English and Jeremy Beal, along with tackles Gerald McCoy and Adrian Taylor.

"This probably is the best line since I've been here because we have a third end [Frank Alexander]," Venables said. "It's the best line we have had since I was here was in 2003, when we had Tommie [Harris] and [Dusty] Dvoracek. Both those guys played in the NFL.

"We aren't sure if our other tackle [Taylor] can be a starter in the NFL, but he will play. We have three really good ends. On the other D-line [in 2003], we only had two. This group is as good and as experienced as we have had in some time."

Last year, the OU defense was spotty, ranking just third in the Big 12 and 68th overall (367.7 ypg). The problem? A lack of experience.

"A year ago, two of our three linebackers had never taken a snap in the game," Venables said. "And once [Ryan] Reynolds went down, I didn't have any linebackers who had any experience. We were doing stupid stuff that led to inconsistency. We are just more consistent this year because of the experience. We aren't doing anything different scheme-wise."

The game at Miami will be a big test, as the Hurricanes have an ever-improving and explosive offense led by sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris, who is now a Heisman contender after posting big numbers in wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech.

Penn State's Lee nurses knee

Penn State linebacker Sean Lee (sprained left knee) said Wednesday that he would like to practice, but that decision will be up to the doctors.

"If I could be out there, I would," said Lee, who also wasn't sure if he would play Saturday in Penn State’s Big Ten opener against Iowa.

Lee suffered the injury in the first half of a 31-6 win over Temple last week. He continued to play before limping off the field in the fourth quarter. Lee missed last season with an injury to his right knee. Penn State also has been without linebacker Navorro Bowman for most of this season because of a groin injury.

If Lee can't play, Josh Hull will start in the middle.

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