Sooners' defense fired up by Spikes' claims

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

MIAMI -- Oklahoma defensive players say they are inspired to disprove Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes after he referred to the Sooners' defense as "a joke."

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables declined to comment about Spikes' derogatory remarks.

But his players said that Spikes' comments will make them play harder in Thursday's FedEx BCS National Championship Game against the Gators.

"Everybody will have their opinions and they can say what they want to say," Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander said. "But we're hungry because there are a lot of people who are doubting us."

The Sooners have had some uncharacteristic defensive struggles this season, allowing an average of 24.5 points per game. That was the most points per game ever allowed by a team coached by Bob Stoops and the most since the Sooners allowed 31.6 ppg in coach John Blake's second season in 1997.

Additionally, the Sooners allowed 253.1 passing yards per game -- the most allowed by an Oklahoma defense since the school started keeping detailed defensive records in 1937.

"People can think what they think," Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal said. "We know we can play defense around here. It's what Oklahoma is built on. And we'll play the best we can on Thursday night."