Handling defensive success
The weight of the world is off Oklahoma’s shoulders. In particular, the defense. They answered the bell vs. Bedlam rival Oklahoma State and played their best game of the season.
They earned the sixth win of the season to guarantee playing in a bowl game next month and sent out the seniors on a high note in Norman.
OK, but there’s still more work to be done. That’s the message as always from head coach Brent Venables. It was that case again as OU prepares to head to Texas Tech to close out the regular season Saturday night in Lubbock.
Finish and finish strong. Keep that sense of urgency and not just be satisfied with winning against the Cowboys.
“We've got a bunch of guys who are really prideful,” Venables said. “They've been incredibly successful when all the moving parts are moving well together, like most units. They've done incredibly well all year. Some of it is precision and timing. Some of it is the play calls and how we handled it as a staff. Some of it is missed opportunities and a bunch of different things. To me, creating a sense of urgency is definitely priority No. 1.”
The last time the OU defense was sticking its chest out, it allowed at least 40 points in four straight games afterward.
It becomes a balancing act because you don’t want to ignore all the good things that happened against OSU, but you have to keep growing.
One thing it did do was show those players what they’re capable of. Not just in finishing strong for 2022, but looking beyond toward 2023.
“It lends credibility with our players, first and foremost, of what it takes,” Venables said. “I can’t change what it takes. And it never happens as fast as you want. Even that part of it, the endurance that you gotta have, it’s just not going to happen right away. That’s the No. 1 thing – is lending credibility.
“Certainly, continue to attract, it always helps in the recruiting world. We’re in a competitive business. So you want to have, you want to be able to sell hope. You’ve got this vision, but vision with no results is not an easy thing to sell. Especially in the here and now.”
BV’s learning curve
Even when things are going well for OU, there is always that period of clunkiness. Things are out of sorts, out of rhythm. The 28-0 start was sensational. Everything after that? Eh, very hit and miss.
It continues to be Venables going to head coaching school week after week. This time around, it was all about clock management. When to be aggressive on offense, when to dial it back, when to take the air out. The process.
“We should have huddled the whole fourth quarter,” Venables said. “But we’re also trying to… Oklahoma State didn’t come in here having this impenetrable defense. They were a defense that had not played consistently well. We thought there was a lot of opportunity.
“What we didn’t do philosophically was stay aggressive in what we were doing, like we did the first quarter. Yeah, learned we gotta stay more aggressive, particularly in the third quarter. And again, in the fourth quarter, we needed to huddle and take our time and run the clock down.”
The offensive issues led to the defense being on the field for 102 plays, but the group was able to rise up to the occasion time and time again.
Portal season just around the corner
Less than two weeks away from the transfer portal going crazy, with people entering like every hour of the day.
It’s not something Venables wants to use on a yearly basis, but it does feel like the Sooners will have to be active in portal recruiting for the second year in a row.
“First and foremost, it’s being committed to something and finishing what you started,” Venables said. “At some point in time, that has to mean something – relationships and the opportunity and being thankful for your opportunity.
“You play your whole career in any sport and there’s always a risk for injury and things of that nature. Just as a man, you do what you say you are going to do no matter what.”
The goal will be to created a program where everybody is bought in and everybody wants to stay when the season ends.
It won’t be this year, but Venables knows for the program to be what he wants it to be, that has to be the light at the end of the tunnel.
“There’s plenty of places where you don’t see it happen much at all,” Venables said. “That’s what I’m trying to create here. I didn’t talk about specifically with any particular players. I’ve been working on that for the past 11-plus months, those things that I said, trying to create a very connected place. If you are connected, that will be a much more difficult decision.”