Kansas State watched with interest Saturday as Oklahoma unveiled its defense under new coordinator Ruffin McNeill, and the first reviews might come as a surprise.
The Wildcats, who had the week off before they travel to Oklahoma this Saturday, certainly were looking for clues while watching the Sooners and TCU on TV.
At first blush, OU’s 52-27 victory showed that the Sooners came in right at their defensive scoring average. But a closer look reveals that they took a major statistical leap forward.
On TCU’s five scores — three touchdowns and two field goals — the Horned Frogs’ worst starting field position was their own 45-yard line. Their longest drive covered 53 yards.
“We played well,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said Monday during the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference. “We contained a really explosive (TCU) skill group and we just played a lot of 11-man ball.
“We had a few guys that played really well, but we just played well together. We were in sync and we tackled well (and) guys just rallied to the football.”
Riley fired longtime coordinator Mike Stoops and promoted McNeill following a 48-45 loss to Texas on Oct. 6 that dropped the Sooners to No. 97 nationally in total defense. Following a bye week, they rebounded to hold TCU to 275 total yards and 112 on the ground.
“I’m just kind of proud of the way we played together, played off of each other,” Riley said. “That’s what really good defenses do.
“They understand where each other’s at — not only do their job at a high level but also, how does their job fit in with the rest? Just a lot of really good ball, all 11 guys on the same page and flying around, making things happen.”
The Sooners moved up 20 spots to No. 77 in total defense and climbed from No. 64 to 59 against the run.
That’s not necessarily good news for K-State (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12), which already must contend with a prolific OU offense that ranks seventh nationally at 526 yards per game.
“They were very much the same football team that they (had been) on the defensive side of the ball,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said Monday. “On both sides, actually, but certainly on the defensive side.
“I saw some tweaks, a few things that you might consider to be changes. I don’t know if they were changes or just there and maybe hadn’t surfaced previously, but by and large it’s the same defense.”
If anything against TCU, it was the Sooners’ special teams that let them down. The Horned Frogs, who trailed just 28-24 at halftime, scored their first touchdown on a 99-yard kickoff return.
The next touchdown, on a 41-yard pass, came three plays after a kickoff return and OU penalty gave TCU the ball at its 47-yard line. The Frogs then needed just one play to score their final touchdown from 33 yards out following a 25-yard punt return.
TCU coach Gary Patterson said the differences he spotted in OU’s defense were not so much schematic.
“I didn’t see overall that many changes,” Patterson said. “They were simple and they let their athletes play.
“Ruffin and I, we’ve been friends for a long time, so I thought adding him to that defensive group, they wanted to fly around and make plays. Obviously, they made some adjustments and the kids caught on to what was going on, because we only scored three points in the second half.”
Another 2:30 kickoff
Kansas State’s Nov. 3 game against TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, will kick off at 2:30 p.m. and be televised nationally by FX1, the Big 12 announced Monday.
K-State also starts at 2:30 p.m. this Saturday at Oklahoma.