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November 27, 2012

HD: Mike Stoops searching for answers after tough stretch

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When Mike Stoops arrived at Oklahoma, OU fans rejoiced. The man with the answers was returning to Norman to fix everything wrong with Oklahoma's defense.

Stoops has made strides in 2012, but he hasn't had the golden touch in every matchup this season.

Things started out great for OU as Stoops' defense checked in as the No. 12 total defense in college football before traveling to Lubbock, Texas, to take on the Red Raiders.

Even after a loss to Notre Dame, the second loss of the season, OU's defense was highly ranked, checking in as the 17th best defense in college football and the 16th best in scoring defense.

SCOOPHD: MIKE STOOPS BEDLAM POSTGAME

Baylor came knocking and the Sooners looked vulnerable for the first time all season. The Bears rolled up 252 yards rushing while putting up a modest 424 yards of total offense. The Sooners held on and took home a relatively easy 42-34 win.

Cracks surfaced, but the defensive ship was still afloat. Mike Stoops still had the No. 20 defense in the country after taking on the Bears.

But the Oklahoma's defensive statistics were about to be blown sky high after contests against West Virginia and Oklahoma State.

West Virginia dropped a 778-yard bomb and 49 eye-popping points on Stoops' defensive statistics.

Oklahoma State followed that up by dropping 48 points on the Sooner defense along with 490 total yards of offense.

That top 20 defensive ranking?  Gone.

Heading into the season finale against TCU, the Sooners have fallen all the way to 44th in total defense and 48th in scoring defense. Not magical times for Mike Stoops.

But Stoops is trying to keep his sense of humor intact through the recent struggles.

When asked why he seemed so excited after the 51-48 overtime win against Oklahoma State, Stoops had an entertaining answer.

"Well, we didn't have to go out and play anymore," he joked. "That's what I was most excited about."

Stoops knows he doesn't have all the answers to the high-powered offensive dilemma which has taken hold in the Big 12 Conference. He went with a radically different approach against West Virginia trying seven defensive backs. The Mountaineers shattered the record for yards given up by an Oklahoma defense. A record which was set by Baylor and Robert Griffin III just a year earlier.

The Sooners also gave up 344 yards rushing to WVU's Tavon Austin that night.

Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf continued exploiting the OU defense when he racked up 52 yards on his first three carries against the Sooners Saturday.

"Matchups up front are so important," said Stoops. "You're trying to play one less in the box so you can cover the field. That's football 101.

"You just need to learn how to adjust and counter. We did the other night. We countered some things and hit some things the way we thought we would, without selling the farm. We got after them pretty good… stopping the run, we have to be more consistent in  our approach."

Want to know how difficult it is to stop the modern offenses in the Big 12 Conference? Stoops admits some of his earlier defenses at Oklahoma would have trouble playing defense against the teams the Sooners have faced this season.

"We didn't get stressed like these guys can do it. They can do it through the air, they can do it with their feet, they can do it by the run," explained Stoops. "There's a lot of deception in the game right now with great players doing it.

"The field is so wide and there's so much room to cover. It's a credit to offenses and they've done a great job utilizing their personnel and utilizing the field. They know what your problems are, very clearly. It's getting players to execute."

Is Mike Stoops broken? Is he giving up? Reporters found out Stoops wasn't waving the white flag Monday.

As the interview with Stoops continued, as he was peppered with question after question about the inability of his defense to stop offenses over the last three weeks, he'd had enough.

"What was Oklahoma State averaging before the game?" asked Stoops. "They didn't get their average did they? What did we average going into the game? What did we get?"

Then Stoops stopped and yelled out playfully, "okay, end of story. Leave me alone!"

Stoops walked off laughing, but he was done with the questions. The man with the answers, and the 44th ranked defense in the country, was done giving them.

At least for now.



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