Last week in the Big 12 blog, I explained why I felt Oklahoma's defensive line could be a serious problem for the Sooners in 2013.
Lo and behold, OU held Louisiana-Monroe, a good football team that had no trouble scoring last year, to zero points in a 34-0 shutout last Saturday.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops did a fantastic job adjusting his play-calling and got results. Per OU's game notes, the Sooners defense forced ULM into six three-and-outs, and 11 of the Warhawks' 15 drives ended in either four players or less. Only twice did ULM even cross midfield.
That's impressive no matter which team you're playing.
So how did the Sooners get it done?
Bob Stoops wouldn't divulge too much information during Monday's coaches teleconference, but he did say that a big part of the success came as result of mixing things up.
"We played more a '50 front' than a four-man front. Put faster guys on the field," Stoops said in the teleconference. "They executed well."
After Saturday's game, this is what ULM coach Toddy Berry had to say about OU's schemes (via Bruce Feldman of CBSSports):
They did a great job of changing their schemes on both sides of the ball. Last year, they didn't use many coverages, they didn't use many different fronts. [On Saturday night] they did a lot of changing it up, going from odd to even fronts, from nickle to dime, and it was a much more complex scheme. They were also much more active up front [than OU's D-line had been on film]. They were getting much more penetration. In the past, they'd been more of a 'read' front.
One of the more noticeable differences was OU's ability to get pressure on ULM quarterback Kolton Browning with just three down linemen by bringing pressure from other parts of the defense. The Sooners didn't necessarily hide or disguise their blitzes a whole lot, but they were able to get in the backfield often and prevent Browning from causing much damage.
It helped out in the run game too. The Warhawks had just 38 yards rushing and no big plays on the ground. Dominating at the point of attack was an area OU struggled with last season. One game in to the season, it appears that part of the defense has greatly improved.
While it remains to be seen if the Sooners can have similar success against Big 12 opponents this year—OU hosts West Virginia on Saturday—this appears to be a much more aggressive unit than a year ago.
Ben Kercheval is the Lead Writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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