Practice report: Stopping screens a key

One of the driving forces behind Texas Tech’s 41-38 upset win over Oklahoma in 2011 was the Red Raiders’ success on receiver screen passes. Alex Torres’ 44-yard touchdown catch-and-run off a screen pass sparked the Red Raiders offense less than two minutes into the game.

This season, the Sooners are focused on slowing the Red Raiders’ “jailbreak” screen, a play in which the receiver slides inside to catch a screen pass behind the offensive line.

“That’s a tough play; their timing is outstanding on it,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “It’s just something we have to have alerts for and recognize it quicker.”

It’s been a focus of OU’s preparation during the last week and will continue to be this week.

“Screens have been a emphasis we’ve been working on these past two weeks,” defensive end David King said. “We just have to come out [and make plays], whether its defensive line reacting quicker or it’s not missing tackles.”

Said nickelback Gabe Lynn: “We just have to be ready. They run a fast-paced offense then hit you with a jailbreak when teams aren’t ready for it and we weren’t ready for it. We have to be prepared for it this year.”

• It was a bye week for the Sooners but they couldn’t help but notice the big numbers put up by Big 12 offenses over the weekend, particularly West Virginia’s 70-63 win over Baylor.

“Looking at the games last week and how offenses are torching defenses, it’s kind of crazy,” cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “Anything like that happens to us, we’d be in for it [discipline-wise].”

Stoops understands it’s going to be tough to play and coach defense in the Big 12 this season.

“They are able to recognize and take advantage of your weaknesses,” Stoops said of Big 12 offensive coordinators.

• Even though the Red Raiders are known for the “Air Raid” offense installed by Mike Leach during his time in Lubbock, the Sooners will have to be wary of Texas Tech’s running game.

The Red Raiders are averaging 188 rushing yards per game this season.

“They do a nice job running the ball, probably better than people think,” Stoops said. “They probably run it as well as anybody, keeping you off balance.”

Iowa State might have found the answer to slowing their running game, limiting them to 30 carries for 63 yards a week after the Red Raiders rushed for 325 yards against New Mexico in their previous game. Stoops is hoping the Sooners can shut down their running game in a similar fashion.

• The Sooners have been really happy with the play of their cornerbacks and could have the top duo in the Big 12 with Colvin and Demontre Hurst.

“We’ve been really pleased with how Aaron Colvin has played,” Stoops said. “These guys have accepted the challenge, him and Demontre [Hurst], they get put on a island and they’ve responded positively.”

OU ranks No. 2 nationally in pass defense, allowing just 123.7 passing yards per contest, although they haven’t been tested by a passing attack like Texas Tech this season.

If Colvin and Hurst can take away the Red Raiders' outside receivers, OU can focus on the run and stopping Texas Tech’s slot receiving threats.

Tony Jefferson isn’t worried about OU’s recent struggles in Lubbock. Why?

Because he hasn’t experienced it himself.

“I don’t know,” Jefferson said when asked about the Sooners struggles in Lubbock. “I’ve never been there; I’ve heard it’s rough and loud there.”

Most of the Sooners haven’t been to Lubbock, thus haven’t experienced the struggles first-hand. As Team USA learned in the Ryder Cup, experience isn’t necessarily helpful if it is losing experience.

• The Sooners' defensive backs will be in the spotlight Saturday as their coverage ability will be tested.

Yet, there’s another part of their game that could make an impact on the outcome. It’s not uncommon for the Sooners to blitz defensive backs, particularly those lined up over a slot receiver. Lynn, a junior, is looking forward to the challenge if he’s asked to blitz against the Red Raiders.

“Anytime you get a blitz, you have to be ready to make a play,” he said. “You don’t know when the next one is going to be.”

Lynn has zero sacks in his career but has recorded two tackles for loss in three games this season.

Jefferson and Colvin have extensive experience as blitzers and both have been successful in the past, giving Stoops options if he chooses to blitz a cornerback or safety on Saturday.