Say what you want about Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (Most Oklahoma fans can’t stand him) he’s having a fantastic first half of the season. Averaging a 69.4% completion percentage, Ehlinger is leading Texas to 41.8 points and 483.6 yards of offense per game.
Undoubtedly Ehlinger and the Longhorns are bringing the biggest test as of yet for Alex Grinch’s speed defense. As the Sooners prepare to dig in for what many are saying is actually the first test for Oklahoma’s new defense here are three key areas they must focus on at the Cotton Bowl.
Win The Line Of Scrimmage
The line of scrimmage has been the focal point of Oklahoma’s defensive attack all season. There’s no need for that to change Saturday against Texas. Neville Gallimore and Ronnie Perkins are making names for themselves by disrupting plays in the opponent’s backfield with consistency. That is an absolute must once against this weekend.
Ehlinger’s size (6-3/230) makes him a danger to pick up three yards just by falling forward. However, if pressure from the middle can force him outside then the Sooners can potentially capitalize on that with defensive speed.
The same principle can be added to defending the pass. Texas dominated Oklahoma last October with slant passes to set up downfield options. Once again, bringing pressure up the middle can disrupt the downfield opportunities and most quarterbacks experience a decrease in passing efficiency when they are flushed from the pocket.
Limit The Running Game
We’ve all talked about how limited Texas has been at the running back position but the committee they are using has been effective. Keaontay Ingram is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, backup quarterback turned running back Roschon Johnson is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and Ehlinger is averaging 4.6.
Kenneth Murray and the rest of the linebackers are tasked with stopping this three-pronged attack. The Sooner linebackers have to be gap sound and can’t miss assignments. If the Longhorns are maintaining those rushing averages on Saturday then they’re going to be putting up a lot of points on the scoreboard.
Force Stops And Turnovers
The Big 12 isn’t the Big 10, or even the S.E.C., so you’re not playing for shutout against these offenses. What you do play for are stops and turnovers.
On the season, Oklahoma’s defense has forced six turnovers, seven turnovers on downs and 27 punts through five games, while registering 34 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. It has also forced 17 three-and-outs (12 before halftime).
Forcing the Longhorns to punt or turn the ball over leads to bonus possessions for Oklahoma’s offense and significantly increases the odds of leaving the Cotton Bowl undefeated.
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