By Michael Kinney
Before Oklahoma linebacker Nik Bonitto came up with the game-sealing interception that knocked off No. 13 Baylor Saturday night, fellow linebacker DaShaun White was having a conversation. The sophomore was exchanging theories with the players on the Baylor bench on just how the game was going to end.
Obviously, the Bears believed their quarterback Charlie Brewer was going to lead the offense down the field to either tie the game or win it outright. And for a good majority of game, they would have had every reason to believe that would be the case.
But, according to White, the Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1) defense the Bears had shredded in the first half was not the one on the field during that final drive. And he was making sure they knew it.
“Ironically, I had gotten into a little scuffle with their sideline. I was talking trash because just a few plays before I was actually sitting on the out and I think (Ronnie) Perkins sacked him. I was telling them ‘don’t throw the out, don’t throw the out.’ The very next play, they completed the out. They started talking back. Then Nik drops a pick, then he picks off the out and I went right back over there.”
The tenth-ranked Sooners 34-31 victory over the Bears (9-1, 6-1) saw them claw back from 25 points down to claim their biggest comeback win in program history. While the night and day performance of Heisman hopeful Jalen Hurts garnered much of the national attention, the comeback was fueled by the play of the Sooner’s beleaguered defensive unit.
“Give our kids credit, they made so many phenomenal plays,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “It would have been easy to pack up the tent tonight.”
However, days later, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was still stymied with the way his unit showed up in the first half of the ball game. They allowed the Bears to roll up 28 points and 238 yards before halftime.
‘Obviously, we didn’t do a good job of weathering the storm,” Grinch said of the first half. “And from an execution standpoint, it was selective execution. Which is really, really disappointing. I’m in charge of it. In the moment, we are not getting 11 guys on every single snap doing the appropriate thing to give ourselves a chance. It’s a hard film to watch. It’s embarrassing. It’s on me. We have to be better.”
Yet, after the break, it was an entirely new squad on the field. And the spark was ignited by the unit doing something it hadn’t done all season.
On Baylor’s opening drive of the third quarter, OU senior cornerback Parnell Motley forced a fumble which Patrick Fields recovered in front of the Sooners bench. It was officially the first turnover of the season for the defense.
The entire Oklahoma bench exploded in excitement seemingly knowing that that was a turning point.
“It was very satisfying, especially for this defense,” Motley said. “Especially, to get that energy, that unwavering energy that we’ve been preaching on all weekend. It set the edge of the game. It was great we got it in the second half. It set a good tone on their first drive. From there, we never looked back and fed off that energy.”
The Sooners went on to hold Baylor to 69 total yards and 3 points in the second half. Every time they were able to get a stop, it gave Hurts and the Oklahoma offense a chance to cut into the lead until they took the lead with 1:45 left in the contest.
Then, with the game on the line, it was the defense that made the biggest play of the Sooners’ season with Bonitto’s game-clinching interception off Brewer.
But now the question remains is which OU defense will show up not just against TCU Saturday but for the rest of the season to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
“Personally, I think it’s all practice habits,” White said. “I think what happened these last few games just caught up to us for not being a consistent enough practice team. I think if we just practice our tails off every day, really focus in on what our assignment is, really honing in on getting that done every single play, I think we can really see the results we want to see.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider