Published 3:02 p.m. ET Sept. 26, 2018
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was a bit uneasy at his weekly media availability.
He noticed how close the reporters were, joking the “vultures were circling.”
It’s easy to see why he feels that way. The Sooners gave up 27 points against Iowa State two weeks ago, then gave up nearly 45 minutes of possession in regulation against Army’s relentless triple option and had to go to overtime before escaping with a 28-21 win over the Black Knights last week.
The Sooners (4-0) won’t face another team like Army this season, and they couldn’t be happier. They will be back in more familiar territory Saturday when they face Baylor’s spread offense in their Big 12 opener.
“I think our guys are more excited probably getting started on this preparation than they were a week ago getting started with the Army preparation because it’s more of we’re used to week in and week out in this league,” Stoops said. “They’re very similar to a lot of teams. Lot of RPOs (run-pass options), lot of spread concepts.”
Baylor coach Matt Rhule said the Bears (3-1) ran a limited number of option plays in last week’s 26-7 win over Kansas .
“We’ve been running a little bit of triple option here and there,” he said. “We ran a couple last week. But, I don’t think (Oklahoma) is going to be too worried about that from us after seeing it last week with Army.”
Stoops said there were positives against Army. Linebacker Kenneth Murray had 28 tackles, a Football Bowl Subdivision record since the NCAA started keeping records in 2000. Linebacker Curtis Bolton had a career-high 23 tackles. And Parnell Motley intercepted a pass to end the game in overtime.
Though the Sooners gave up 339 yards rushing on a jaw-dropping 78 attempts in that game, Stoops believes they are better for the experience.
“What I took from it is the way our guys just kind of hung in there all day,” Stoops said. “We fought through it. It wasn’t pretty, but we finally got the plays when we needed them most. It’s been really the character of our team. When we’ve gotten ourselves into bad situations, we’ve gotten out of them.”
Though the Sooners racked up a lot of tackles against Army, they didn’t necessarily tackle well.
“Tackling is something that we’ve definitely been working on and making sure we’re working on our pursuit to the ball and our communication,” Oklahoma safety Khalil Haughton said.
The Sooners face a Baylor squad that averages 36.3 points and 486.8 yards per game. Charlie Brewer has taken the reins at quarterback and given the Bears stability at the position.
Baylor’s Jalen Hurd also has the Sooners’ attention. The 6-foot-4 ex-Tennessee running back has 22 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns. He also has 32 yards on five carries.
“He’s transitioned,” Stoops said. “He’s played a little bit at running back, has moved into the slot, is a big body and moves around well. He has good mobility in there for a guy who’s played running back. That tells you how talented the kid is.”
Hurd is playing some at both receiver and running back.
“We have great backs, but he’s (Hurd) 220 pounds,” Rhule said. “We’ve just been trying to use him in short yardage, goal line. He’s such a team guy, he’ll do whatever you need him to do.” ___
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