A year ago, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops brought a shaky defense into the rivalry game with Texas.
He was fired the day after a 48-45 loss to the Longhorns.
This year, things appear to have changed under new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The Sooners are allowing just 19 points per game and have held their past four opponents to 20 or fewer points, and a swagger has developed with the success.
Texas coach Tom Herman knows he will see something much different on Saturday when No. 6 Oklahoma and No 11 Texas meet in Dallas.
“I think you just see them playing so hard and flying to the football,” Herman said. “Really aggressive. Not terribly complex. Some of the things they do with their line movements and twists and stunts are going to be difficult for our offensive line and quarterback. (Sooner defenders) are in the right place at the right time, and they’re getting there with their hair on fire and really physical.”
Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray remembers last year’s loss. Though the Sooners got revenge in the Big 12 Championship Game, the regular-season game still sticks in his mind. He looks forward to the opportunity Saturday’s game presents.
“Definitely a game that that we want to go out here and we want to dominate,” Murray said. “Definitely a game that we’re going to go out here and we want to play the way that we play. And I think this team this year is different from the team last year. I think it’s a different approach. I think it’s a different mindset, and so I’m excited to get some preparation this week and go out there and dominate on Saturday.”
Murray leads the way with 37 tackles. The preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year also has four tackles for loss. Riley said Murray has bought in and adjusted to Grinch’s system.
“When you have a good mentality and work hard and do everything right, the results are going to show eventually,” Riley said. “He’s starting to play at a pretty high level for us.”
The Sooners rank fifth nationally in third-down defense, something Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley thinks could be a factor on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. Texas ranks second nationally in third-down offense.
“It’s going to be a big factor, I think, on all sides,” Riley said. “It always is. Not anything new. It’ll certainly be a little bit of strength versus strength there. As far as kind of how the teams have played up to this point, it’ll be a fairly impactful stat when we look at it after the game.”
Defensive tackle Jalen Redmond leads the way with five tackles for loss. Defensive end Ronnie Perkins has four tackles for loss. Nose guard Neville Gallimore has been disruptive and has helped free his teammates up to make plays. Strong safety Delarrin Turner-Yell leads the secondary with 25 tackles. Cornerback Parnell Motley leads the team with five pass breakups.
“We’ll be burning the midnight oil trying to figure out a way to score some points,” Herman said. “I’ve been impressed with Coach Grinch in his short time there and the level they are playing at right now.”
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno contributed.
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