From the beleaguered Sooners defenders, who one by one trudged up the incline of the visitors concrete tunnel to the safe haven of the team bus, to Oklahoma’s disheveled defensive coordinator, who entered the interview room looking like he’d just seen one of those Paranormal Activity movies.
With eyes mostly titled to the ground, Mike Stoops attempted to explain how and why his defense had just surrendered 854 yards of offense, 42 first downs, 22 third- and fourth-down conversions and 59 points.
But just like his defense in Jones Stadium, Stoops couldn’t muster the answer.
“Unacceptable at so many levels,” he said, “I can't even begin to try and define it.”
Thanks to the record-setting offensive output of Baker Mayfield, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook, the Sooners kept pace in their consolation pursuit of a Big 12 title and hung on for dear life to nab the 66-59 victory.
But while mathematically alive and well, Oklahoma’s defense looked anything but championship-caliber in Lubbock.
“I thought we were starting to turn a corner here in the last few weeks,” coach Bob Stoops said. “Obviously, it did not look like that out there.”
The truth is, Oklahoma’s defense has trending the wrong direction this whole season.
The Sooners have given up 40 points or more in four of their last five games, the lone exception coming against K-State, when the Big 12’s least effective passing offense also featured a quarterback with an injury to his shoulder.
Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II was hobbled with multiple injuries, as well, including a sore throwing shoulder. And yet, despite operating with no running game and a reeling offensive line, he torched Oklahoma for 819 yards of total offense to break an FBS record.
The Sooners pressured Mahomes. They knocked him down. They flushed him out of the pocket. But they couldn’t slow him -- much less stop him -- even as his deep throws were off all night due to the shoulder ailment.
“We went man. … We went zone. … Everything we did, they had guys running free pretty much all night,” Mike Stoops said.
Good defense in the Big 12 anymore isn't measured in yards allowed alone.
Good defense is about creating turnovers, forcing field goals in the red zone and getting off the field on third down.
But off his Big 12-record 88 attempts, Oklahoma intercepted Mahomes just once. The Sooners allowed touchdowns on Tech’s final five drives. And , most starkly, they were a disaster when it counted most.
On third-down plays, Mahomes went 16-of-19 passing for 263 yards; he also rushed for three more first downs. All told, Mahomes’ third-down QBR was a perfect 100.
“Those are money downs to get off the field,” Bob Stoops said. “And we couldn't get it done.”
Mahomes is a warrior and a fabulous player, to be sure. But the week before, West Virginia, which came into the season with half the fanfare this Oklahoma defense did, shut Mahomes down on the way to a 48-17 victory.
Good defense can stop good offense, even in Lubbock.
The Mountaineers clearly have good defense. The Sooners equally as clear do not.
“I was very disappointed in our effort and our coaching,” Mike Stoops said. “It's unacceptable. It's disappointing -- when we thought we were making some improvements, to really fall on our face like this.
“We've got to re-evaluate a lot of the things we're doing.”
It’s not clear at this point what, if anything, can be done. By Mike Stoops’ own admission, Oklahoma unleashed every defensive scheme it had in the playbook Saturday to no avail.
Whether it’s been Ohio State or Texas or Texas Tech, the Sooners have demonstrated they simply can’t cover the pass, despite cycling through virtually every defensive back on the roster.
With Kansas and Iowa State up next, Oklahoma will have time to reconfigure. But after that, the Sooners close with Baylor’s Seth Russell, West Virginia’s Skyler Howard and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, all of whom are more than capable of also shredding these paper Sooners.
Behind Mayfield, Mixon and Westbrook, Oklahoma will still have a chance to outscore anyone in the Big 12 the rest of the way. That's what these defenseless Sooners have been reduced to. Trying to win shootouts. To overcome a punchline of a defense.