The Oklahoma Sooners are preparing to host the Iowa State Cyclones in what could be a closer matchup than some expect. Knowing Matt Campbell brings a balanced attack to the field, the focus will certainly be on Alex Grinch’s defense this weekend. Here are the keys to defensive success on Saturday.
Keep Iowa State Out of the Redzone
On the year, the Cyclones have proved capable of scoring touchdowns once reaching the hallowed grounds inside the 20-yard line. Through eight games this season, Iowa State found themselves in such situations a total of 36 times. Converting those 36 attempts into 34 scores, the program boasts a 94.44% conversion rate in the redzone. Of those, 26 trips inside 20-yard line resulted in touchdowns to eight field goals. That’s roughly one field goal per game on such occasions. Needless to say, it’s almost a guaranteed touchdown when ISU progresses into the redzone.
On the flip side of the equation, the Sooners remain one of the worst defenses when it comes to the redzone. On the year, the defense has faced 26 different redzone opportunities. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, opponents have turned 24 of those into scores — 17 touchdowns to seven field goals. When push comes to shove, can the Sooners get the stops required to keep to secure a win?
Limit Big Plays
Ranking third in the conference, ISU has racked up 149 plays of 10+ yards. However, a majority of those have come through the air behind the likes of Brock Purdy and crew. With 107 passing plays of 10+ yards, the quarterback leads the Big 12 in the statistical category. Immediately, any opposing secondary must be put on notice.
The Sooners have improved significantly when it comes to tackling in space. Jaden Davis continues to look the part of a seasoned veteran despite being a freshman. With Parnell Motley suspended for the first half of the contest, Davis likely earns the start this week. The coaching staff will undoubtedly task Tre Brown and Davis with the role of limiting big plays. However, the opposing offense is going to try the young secondary time and time again for four quarters.
Leading up to a season debut with Oklahoma, Alex Grinch consistently pointed to turnovers as the measure of success on the defensive side of the ball. Implementing a ‘speed defense’ to create those opportunities paid off during the non-conference portion of the schedule. However, stepping into to conference play tells a different story.
Unable to secure a turnover in the last four contests, the Sooners have recorded a single turnover gained against league foes. It’s quickly becoming a point of contention. The athletes are in place to make plays and there are no more excuses. Now is the time for the Sooners to prove themselves capable forcing turnovers while putting the ball back in Jalen Hurts hands.