Practice report: Defense 'out-executed' late

After Monday’s practice, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said he was mostly pleased with how the defense performed in the loss to Kansas State.

“For three quarters we did exactly what we wanted to do,” he said. “If you can hold them to three points through three quarters, that’s very difficult to do. I don’t know if anybody’s ever done that.

“Why it hurt so bad is we didn’t execute down the stretch and it cost us dearly, not getting off the field on third down. We got out-executed and that was the game.”

Stoops pointed to a pair of third downs the Wildcats converted in the fourth quarter that were crucial. On third-and-12, Gabe Lynn and Aaron Colvin turned Tramaine Thompson loose on a wheel route down the sidelines. The Wildcats went on to score to take the 24-13 lead. The following possession on third-and-11, linebacker Tom Wort allowed Thompson to cut across the field unscathed for a first down. The Wildcats went on to run out the clock.

“The two third-and-longs were disappointing,” Stoops said. “We missed a coverage – we didn’t cut the receiver on one, and then we let a guy loose on the other. Those were disappointing.”

Otherwise, Stoops was lauded the defense’s effort.

“We did a lot of good things, just didn’t finish,” he said. “I was pleased with our effort, and that’s where it all starts with us. Our mental toughness as a team has to continue to grow. I thought our preparation was good and I thought the players went out and played well all night. There are some things we need to clean up and we will.”

• Defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright echoed Stoops and defended the OU defense’s performance.

“For the most part, we were pretty solid,” Wright said. “It was a pretty solid night all night long.

“Everyone is jumping off the … takeaway the touchdown we gave them offensively, that’s what, 17? Well, they scored 17 last year and everyone thought we mauled them.

“Even at the end of it, we have a chance to win the football game, and we don’t get a stop late. That was a disappointing thing.”

• Mike Stoops elected not to blitz Kansas State QB Collin Klein much. The reason was Stoops wanted to keep Klein from breaking contain and breaking off long runs, which the Sooners did for the most part.

“We tried to get in rush lanes and keep the quarterback in the pocket,” Stoops said. “You try to control your rush lanes and keep him contained and get your hands up and make him throw some bad balls. At times, we did that. When we did it well, we made him throw some errant throws.

• Even tough K-State had the ball for almost 11 minutes in the fourth quarter, Stoops said he didn’t think fatigue had anything to do with the third-down lapses.

“I don’t think so,” he answered. “I just think we misplayed some plays and got out-executed. Their quarterback made some big plays for them down the stretch.”

• Wort addressed the blown coverage on the third-down conversion that all but iced the game. Wort was spying Klein, but was also charged with knocking any receivers coming in front of them off their routes. But Thompson dashed in front of him untouched and Klein hit him in stride for the key first down.

“That was a mistake on my part,” Wort said. “I was spying the quarterback, and it was a coverage we hadn’t worked on much during the week.”

When asked what the coverage was, Wort said it was “under coverage.”

“Our third-down package wasn’t anywhere where it needed to be,” Wort added.

Tony Jefferson, who had a career-high 14 tackles, admitted that his ankle bothered him during the K-State game. Jefferson said he “re-tweaked” the ankle, which he first injured against Florida A&M, but only missed one play.

“Too big of a game to come out,” he said.

Jefferson said he’s going to take it easy on the ankle this week so that it can continue to heal.

“It’s a little sore,” he said.

• Against K-State, Bobby Jack Wright went with Chuka Ndulue at defensive end over senior R.J. Washington, who started the first two games. Wright said Ndulue was the better counter to K-State’s power running attack.

“He’s stronger, firmer at the point of attack,” Wright said. “Chuka is the more physical guy.”

It’s clear, however, that Wright is not pleased with Washington at the moment. One reporter asked whether Wright was waiting for the light switch to come on for Washington.

“Let me know if you find the switch,” Wright answered. “Next question.”

• Cornerback Demontre Hurst said the defensive backfield graded out well for its performance.

“A lot of guys were in the 90s,” he said. “We did pretty good, especially tackling-wise.”

• In his first game back after a two-game hiatus, defensive tackle Casey Walker seemed to hold his own. Fellow defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland agreed.

“He played well,” McFarland said. “Really didn’t miss a beat. Not winded at all.”

McFarland said that like the secondary, the defensive line graded out well across the board.

“As a unit, we played well,” McFarland said. “But when you look at the loss, we didn’t play well enough.”

• Focus was a key word as the Sooners discussed their loss to K-State and their hopes to improve moving forward and insert themselves in the Big 12 championship hunt.

“If feel like we are in the right spots,” Jefferson said. “It’s just little tiny bits that we mess up on that could gash us, so focus, I think that’s a key word for these next two weeks.”

The Sooners had two weeks to prepare for Kansas State, yet it didn’t seem to help. Now they have two weeks to get ready for Texas Tech who upset OU 41-38 in 2011.

“We just came off a bye week and lost,” Jefferson said. “So we have to change our approach.”

• The Sooners defense played well through three quarters of the loss.

And yet it didn’t matter when they couldn’t make plays in critical situations and Kansas State did. Ultimately those plays erased a solid effort on that side of the ball.

“It’s all about finishing,” Hurst said. “Pretty much the whole fourth quarter, they just out-executed us and really outplayed us, they did what they had to do. We had a lot of opportunities to get off the field on third down and it didn’t get the job done.

“It’s a heartbreaker for our defense; it’s going to be a big thing for us from now on.”

The outcome of the game could have been different if OU had finished. The Wildcats were 3 of 3 on third down in the final quarter as KSU outscored the Sooners 14-6 in the final 15 minutes.