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Sooners put shackles on Missouri's potent offense

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Oklahoma's struggling defense has been a prime point of discussion all season.

The Sooners have allowed more points than any other defense for a team coached by Bob Stoops. But considering the Big 12's explosive offenses, a few touchdowns and yards are almost to be expected.

But Oklahoma produced a solid answer to some of that recent criticism with a stifling performance in a 62-21 victory over Missouri in the Big 12 title game.

"Hopefully, those critics watched this game and saw that Oklahoma can play on both sides of the ball and not just on offense," redshirt freshman linebacker Travis Lewis said.

And while some naysayers might wonder about 294 passing yards allowed, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables preferred to focus on the good things his defense did in keeping Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel in check.

The Sooners produced two interceptions, a fumble recovery and two sacks. They were able to harass Daniel's balance throughout the game with a masterful defensive performance in their second-straight Big 12 title game victory over the Tigers.

Missouri was limited to 66 yards rushing and seemingly were in long-yardage situations throughout the game.

"It all starts with our front four," Lewis said. "I don't think Chase was comfortable all night because of them. I give them a lot of credit. And the secondary played great coming downhill. It was just a total team effort."

Venables cooked up some different schemes that kept the Tigers off balance. The Sooners used a two-man rush successfully at times, dropping nine defenders into coverage to flummox Daniel.

Top pass rusher Auston English provided a lift with three tackles in his first playing time after missing two games with a sprained knee.

But the biggest producer was junior cornerback Brian Jackson, who contributed a fumble recovery and one of Oklahoma's two interceptions.

Venables has heard about how much the Sooners' defense has fallen back from the glory days of the Oklahoma dynasty. Recent efforts like Saturday's have been his unit's retort.

"Obviously with all of the up and downs and the setbacks we've had, you're proud of the guys zeroing in and blocking everything out," Venables said. "But I've felt like a real maturation process has taken place over the last six weeks. We've gotten better and better."

That defensive growth has provided 21 turnovers over the past five games. Their work in shutting down Texas Tech opened some eyes. And even with seven new starters from last year's team, this group appears to be peaking as the season finishes up.

The naysayers are likely to return before the Sooners face Tim Tebow and Florida in a likely BCS title game. Lewis said his unit will be ready.

"I think if you give us a month, we'll be a pretty good defense," Lewis said. "But I think we're a pretty good darn good defense anyway. And we showed it tonight."