Oklahoma-Texas: Sooners’ Backfield Ready to Explode

Jeff Johnson@@mpg_jjohnsonCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2008

While the Oklahoma Sooners juggernaut continues to roll, adjustments continue to take place.  Through Oklahoma’s first three games it appeared their rushing attack was unstoppable, averaging over 217 yards per game.  But along came the TCU defense, holding the Sooners’ rushing game to only 25 yards.

What should make Sooner fans nervous is that the Texas defense is very similar to TCU’s against the run.  But don’t count Oklahoma’s running backs out just yet.

After the TCU game (the Sooners still won 35-10 on the arm of QB Sam Bradford), the running backs put up 217 yards against Baylor.  All three running backs—Chris Brown, DeMarco Murray, and Mossis Madu—contributed to the resurgence.

This Saturday will give them their biggest test to date, going up against one of the nation’s top defensive lines in Texas. 

The Texas defense so far this season has been spectacular against the run, only allowing their opponents 259 yards total this season.  Through five games that is an average of 51.8 yards per game.

Their weak point up to now has been their pass defense, allowing their opponents an average of 244 yards per game.  But Texas coach Mack Brown and company are planning on changing that, focusing more on pressuring Sam Bradford.

Since there are only 11 players on the field for the defense, what does that leave?  More chances for the Oklahoma running backs.

While Texas attempts to change its game plan on the fly, Oklahoma already did and has had a chance to test it out.  Using TCU as the catalyst and Baylor as the guinea pig, Oklahoma’s offensive line and running backs have already made the adjustments that we will need to see against Texas.

In running back Mossis Madu’s opinion, "I think we are definitely headed in the right direction. TCU kind of woke us up and made us realize that we can't just run against any team we want to. We have to go out there and earn every yard and work hard for it. We are preparing this week and we are going to go out there and do what we can.  We will have our minds right and be ready to get out there and run."

Here’s the most likely scenario for Saturday’s battle.  Texas quarterback Colt McCoy will attempt to carry his offense, either with his arm or on the ground.  But as proven last week against Colorado, he isn’t infallible.

McCoy threw for two interceptions last Saturday, and we can expect him to throw at least one (if not more) against Oklahoma.  Oklahoma’s defense will give up short yardage plays, but red zone defense will beat the Longhorns back.

On the other side of the ball, watch as Sam Bradford is flushed from the pocket multiple times.   Texas’ defense will try to depend on making Bradford as uncomfortable as possible, as they know that the matchup between Oklahoma’s excellent receiving corps and their lackluster secondary will be no contest.

With Oklahoma’s passing game slightly dampened, the running backs will be given more opportunities.  Chris Brown will probably get the majority of the carries, as he’s been the short yardage workhorse this season.  Mossis Madu will also get a few good carries.  Expect at least one from him to be a breakout. 

That leaves only DeMarco Murray.  Murray always has the possibility to go the distance when he has the ball.  At last year's Red River Rivalry, Murray had a run that will forever live in Red River Rivalry history when he bolted to his left, hurdled fallen Oklahoma tight end Joe Jon Finley, and raced 65 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.

But since dislocating his kneecap against Texas Tech late last year, Murray hasn’t quite looked the same.  While he continues to say that he’s back to 100 percent physically, his performance on the field hasn’t shown that yet.

His performance—or lack thereof—could be the game-changing factor of the week.  If Murray comes back out looking like the player we saw in the Cotton Bowl last year, the Sooners will get a huge leg up in the contest.

If he is a non-factor in the running game, however, the Sooners will have to find some other weapon to beat Texas. 

Luckily, the Sooners are all about weapons this season.


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