Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 10/17/12
NORMAN, Okla. - The defensive call comes from the sideline and sometimes it can be "like 45 words long," says Oklahoma defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland. A verbal stream of consciousness. Fruit and insects. Word play and pop culture. The official language of football. "But all I know is the one word that's mine," McFarland admitted. One word, 11 players, and so far this season, it seems like everyone is in the right spot for the Oklahoma defense. No team in the country has been more impressive the past two weeks than the Sooners, and while OU has scored 104 points in wins over Texas Tech and Texas, it's really been the defense that's impressed. Why? Well, maybe there's something to the one-word focus McFarland has figured out because the Sooners have limited a pair of high-powered offenses. They now have put together a defense that has distanced itself from the one a season ago that was gashed repeatedly the second half of 2011. How? Simple. It's just being more simple. "We just line up and play," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "There's not that many tricks out there. It gets down to playing hard, and fundamentals. Have that toughness about you. That's what defense is." What defense is this season is different than a year ago when OU peaked after beating Texas in the Cotton Bowl. OU was lit up by Missouri before the Texas win, then again after, losing to Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State. Long-time defensive coordinator Brent Venables along with what players now call a complicated scheme left for Clemson at the end of the season. In his place is Stoops, who returned as defensive coordinator after spending eight seasons as Arizona's head coach. And the result? "It's been way easier compared to last year and the year before," linebacker Corey Nelson said. "When you have athletes who are talented, it just makes it easier. We can just run around make plays. We're very simple. It's amazing to have something this easy and simple to learn. Just go play and not think about it." "Things are easier to grasp," safety Tony Jefferson said. "Our focus and executing is better. When we call the plays, we're doing it right." Well, there's certainly no arguing results. The Sooners are ranked No. 14 in the country in total defense and allowing only 17 points per game. But look closer. In the past two weeks, OU has allowed 41 points combined to Texas Tech and Texas, but 21 of those points have come in the fourth quarter when Oklahoma's first team defense was out of the game and off the field. Nearly half the possessions against the first-team defense resulted in no first downs. Against Texas, the Sooners allowed just two first downs in the first half. Its starters allowed just 139 yards of offense and not a single point. Against Texas Tech, the Red Raiders didn't score in the second half until 56 seconds were left in the game. By that time, OU led 41-13. And go back a week before that in the loss to Kansas State. The Wildcats scored 24 points, but 17 were a direct result of turnovers, including the first score of the game for K-State when quarterback Landry Jones was sacked and fumbled at his own 1-yard line. In addition, after managing just one take-away in the first three games, the Sooners have six in the last two. That's a simple explanation for improvement. Those numbers will likely improve when Oklahoma takes on Kansas in Norman Saturday. Kansas is 1-5 overall and winless in the Big 12. Coach Bob Stoops says not much has changed in the past year with the defense, despite the change in coordinators, suggesting instead his team is "Just doing it better. We are more simple, so there's less chance to blow it ourselves." A year ago, OU faced and lost to Baylor and its Heisman winning quarterback. Oklahoma State was the Big 12 champs, featuring a first-round draft pick at quarterback. Really, you're talking about two teams that had their most-impressive seasons in school history. Those kind of things tend to skew defensive data -- the Sooners gave up the yards to those two, but so did everyone else. And yes, OU still has to face top quarterbacks Geno Smith of West Virginia as well as an undefeated Notre Dame team, so there will certainly be some yards surrendered. Last year, the Sooners defense was superb against Texas. This year, players seem keenly aware of the fact the Sooners never did play better defensively after that game. Maybe that's why the focus on simple is so important. OU lost two of its last four games in 2011. "We're not going to stop doing what we have done," safety Javon Harris said. "We're just getting started. Everyone wants to get better." That's been the case the past two weeks as Oklahoma has been so good defensively, almost no one is talking about the recent resurgent play of quarterback Landry Jones, who had been in a slump the past eight games dating back to last season. Just line up and go. "I may not see it all, but I can tell you everyone plays their part," McFarland said. "When you start twisting and being in the wrong spot, you start running into each other and your footwork is bad. Now the play happens and everyone's ready."
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