On a night where the Oklahoma defense allowed 484 yards of offense, it’s a game that will easily be remembered as its statement performance of the season.
Huh? One game won’t erase a season’s worth of miscues and missed opportunities, but on this evening, it was all about the suffocating defense that had been promised nearly 12 months ago by head coach Brent Venables.
The defense withstood charge after charge after charge to help the Sooners to a 28-13 victory against No. 22 Oklahoma State in Bedlam on Saturday evening on senior night at OU.
You give up 484 yards, you’re not normally pounding your chest. It took OSU 102 plays to accomplish that feat. Again, 102 and just one touchdown allowed in 19 possessions.
“I think it’s something we’ve been kind of gradually growing all year,” linebacker DaShaun White said. “And it’s been rough. Sometimes we haven’t even been able to sort of see the fruits of our labor and I feel lie today was kind of… I wouldn’t say it was like that moment, but it kind of did feel like that moment a little bit where we were kind of finally seeing the fruits of our labor.”
OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders threw the ball 67 times, and OU was up to task over and over and over. The Sooners finished with four interceptions, six sacks, seven pass breakups, 12 quarterback hurries and 13 tackles for loss.
After the offense and the defense combined for one of the best quarters in OU history, a 28-0 blitz in the first 15 minutes, the OU offense disappeared the rest of the night.
The Sooners had 299 yards of offense in the first quarter and just 135 the rest of the game, with OSU holding a 37:38-22:22 time of possession advantage.
But there was nothing that was going to slow down the Sooners in getting a Bedlam victory.
“It’s all about that grind. Playing that many plays showed the heart we have as a defense,” said defensive end Jonah Laulu, who had one of the four picks. “I love our staff on defense and on offense. We have some really good coaches.
“Everybody was kind of counting Coach Venables out. I felt like they were disrespecting him. I mean, that’s Coach Venables. That’s Brent Venables you’re talking about. His amazing defense and his plan. That dude is just smart.”
OU couldn’t make it easy on itself, a common theme for the 2022 season, but the Sooners got that magical sixth win and are officially bowl eligible.
After the 28-0 start, you ready for OU’s offense? The last 12 possessions netted zero points and not one possession in the second half gained more than 20 yards.
If you wanted to truly test the will of OU’s defense, that qualifies. And they never blinked.
“Everybody just playing together, improving, playing with confidence, preparation, you play aggressive and confidently through your preparation,” Venables said. “That’s how you earn your edge. I thought they did a great job of communicating and adjusting and playing with passion and focused intensity it takes to play at that level.
“Forced eight three-and-outs. They were 7-of-24 on third and fourth downs. Forced four turnovers, six sacks, 12 hurries, 13 tackles for loss. They were great when we had to get some stops there at the end. Just a great job. A bunch of guys shared in the success and incredibly proud of our players and staff.”
Being bowl eligible feels like a given at a place like OU, but allow this team to celebrate and enjoy the moment. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, with OU entering at 5-5 and losing its last two games by one possession apiece.
There have been times when the offense has carried the defense, but it was the defense’ turn to lend the helping hand. To tell the offense, hey, we’ve got this.
It has been preached repeatedly about finishing strong. Against your rival, maybe in one of the final times Bedlam is going to go down, the Sooners defense did just that.
“When you think about a foundation, whether it’s a building or a program, there are so many things and it takes so much time, whatever that time is,” Venables said. “It just takes a long time. You’ve gotta spend the most time building the foundation the right way the first time, and then it goes unseen after you get things erected.
“The depth of that foundation determines how high you can go, how high the building is, how high we can go as a program. It all starts with a foundation, an attitude, a belief in how we do what we do. Our guys haven’t flinched.”