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OU Defense Gets Much-Needed Confidence Boost

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LAWRENCE, Kansas -

With the way the first two Kansas drives went on Saturday, the Oklahoma Sooners defense had to be wondering if they were still facing Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

The Jayhawks took the ball after an OU punt to start the game and slammed it right down the heart of the Sooners' defense. A 70-yard drive ended in a touchdown and 63 of those yards came on the ground, courtesy of James Sims. Kansas' third drive was much the same. Four plays, 68 yards—52 of those on the ground—and a touchdown for Sims.

Kansas is about as close as you can get to basic reps in Big 12 conference play. The Jayhawks are bad, have been bad for a while, and probably won't be good anytime soon. It was the perfect game for the Sooners to rebound from last week's loss to Texas, but instead, it looked more of the same from an OU defense hurting in the middle.

Fortunately, the Sooners buckled down and limited the Jayhawks to just 63 yards the rest of the game, a 34-19 Oklahoma win. Those two Kansas scoring drives in the first half accounted for 138 of Kansas' 201 total yards Saturday afternoon.

Related Story: Sigh of Relief: Sooners Rally From Early Hole To Defeat Kansas

For those looking for some kind of comfort in the Sooners' performance against the Jayhawks, there wasn't much to be had. But the small amount of consistent good can be found in the defense's showing after those first two KU drives.

The middle of the OU defense has become the soft underbelly for opponents to exploit. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and linebacker Corey Nelson are gone for the year and replacements Dominique Alexander, Jordan Wade and Torrea Peterson had been brutally exposed against the Longhorns, but after Sims scored his first touchdown with 14:49 to play in the second quarter on Saturday, they were the strength of the unit (Peterson was suspended against KU for academic reasons).

Here are a couple stats that illustrate the Sooners dominance in the second half on Saturday:

-Kansas had just one first down after halftime

-Kansas had just 16 yards passing, an astonishing -2 yards after halftime

-The Jayhawks ran 19 plays for 28 yards in the second half.

Now, most would probably think, "It's Kansas. Oklahoma better be dominating a terrible Kansas offense," and they'd be right. Oklahoma absolutely should dominate the Jayhawks in every way. Those first two scoring drives for Kansas were unacceptable.

However, I'd go as far to say the Sooners needed those two drives in order to wake up and finally start making the adjustments necessary to stop the ball. It's one thing to have Texas ram the ball down your throat with lots of talented players, but it a whole different thing when it's Kansas.

Players aren't dumb. They understand Kansas doesn't have the athletes other schools do; they understand the Jayhawks aren't very good. So when Kansas runs the ball down your throat, it's embarrassing. Maybe that lit a fire under the Sooners, because they weren't the same defense after the Jayhawks went up 13-0.

It may not be a lot, but it's something. The Sooners now know they can stop somebody, even if it's only Kansas. Not a lot has gone right for this unit in the past two weeks, so positivity comes at a premium.

Oklahoma will need that confidence going forward into the next two games. They take on Texas Tech next week before facing Baylor in Waco on Nov. 7. It's easily the most difficult two-game stretch of the season and will be the difference between a potential Big 12 championship and a trip to the Alamo Bowl.

It's hard to believe a win over Kansas could give Oklahoma much-needed confidence, but that's exactly what Saturday's performance did for the defense. Now we'll see what the unit does with it going forward.

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