CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer
There is good news and bad news for Oklahoma’s defense heading into Saturday’s showdown with Ohio State.
The good? The Sooners faced a system much like Ohio State’s version of the spread offense two weekends ago when they faced Houston, which is coached by former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
The bad? Oklahoma got gouged in the first half of the 33-23 loss to the Cougars.
The 14th-ranked Sooners must be better against the third-ranked Buckeyes.
“They have a lot of similarities, of course,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “Each will do a few things a little bit different, but overall there’s a lot of carry over.”
Perhaps the biggest difference between Houston and Ohio State is that the Buckeyes focus on the run more offensively. Houston hurt Oklahoma through the air, passing for 321 yards and rushing for just 89. Ohio State has averaged 313.5 yards rushing and 283 yards passing in its first two games.
“It gets down to what they emphasize with their schemes,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “There’s a lot of similarities, but yet, there’s a lot of differences in how they utilize their personnel.”
Still, the foundation is the same. Oklahoma linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo said having faced Houston will help his teammates feel more comfortable.
“You can react faster,” he said. “You know what’s coming. Stuff like that.”
The Sooners also should benefit from having faced a talented dual-threat quarterback. Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. didn’t rush for many yards against the Sooners, but his elusiveness created problems. He threw 40 passes and was sacked just twice. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State’s dual-threat quarterback, has run 22 times for 85 yards and three touchdowns this season for Ohio State.
“There’s some advantage there in that we’ve dealt with a guy who is similar,” Bob Stoops said. “We can try and tweak some things that you thought you could have done better. The other side of that is they got to see how you want to play it. They will make their adjustments as well.”
Oklahoma was successful making adjustments against Houston. The Sooners surrendered 337 yards in the first half, but just 83 in the second.
Oklahoma’s defense took another step forward during a 59-17 win over Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday. The Sooners led 42-0 at halftime, and controlled the game defensively, aside from a few breakdowns. Stoops said the Sooners didn’t hurt themselves as much last week and were in position to make plays more often.
“The competition is going to be different,” Bob Stoops said. “But still, like I said, when you still make plays that you are capable of making, it is still a positive.”
Regardless how much the Sooners learned against Houston, Mike Stoops knows Ohio State’s exceptional talent will be hard to deal with.
“There’s challenges all over the place when you play them,” he said. “They’ve got answers for a lot of things. You’ve just got to keep them off balance and not let them zero in on everything you’re doing.”