<
>

Alexander a bright spot for defense

NORMAN, Okla. -- Frank Alexander was a ray of light in a dismally dark defensive performance during Oklahoma's 38-28 win over Missouri at Owen Field on Saturday night.

The Sooners gave up 532 yards of total offense to the Tigers, including 241 on the ground. OU gave up only 27 rushing yards in last week's win over Florida State.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables was disappointed with the performance of the Sooners' defense, saying he could count on one hand the number of players who played well on his unit as OU improved to 3-0 this season.

For the third straight game, Alexander was one of those players. The senior defensive end finished with six tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one quarterback hurry.

Entering his fifth season as at Oklahoma, Alexander has brought a different approach to the field than he did in previous seasons. Asked if his mindset had changed in 2011, Alexander didn't hesitate to admit there's more urgency for him this season than in his first four years in Norman.

"[It's] very different," Alexander said. "I feel like I have to be the light for the young guys. They see I'm going hard, we can do the same. I try to be a vocal leader as well as be an example on the field."

His mindset change is paying off for Alexander and the Sooners, as he has been OU's most productive defender and more of a vocal leader this season.

"Frank is magnificent," safety Javon Harris said. "He's controlling the line. And a lot of teams look closely at our defense and our defensive line with Frank. He helps us out in the [defensive] backfield, forcing the quarterback to make throws he doesn't want to make."

Saturday's outing against Missouri was a perfect example as Alexander consistently beat Missouri tackle Justin Britt, a sophomore, and harassed quarterback James Franklin. The Tigers' quarterback rarely had time to get comfortable in the pocket and consistently had to scramble thanks in part to Alexander's dominance of his one-on-one matchup with Britt.

"Coach [Bobby Jack] Wright has been on us about keeping our feet moving, so that was my biggest thing tonight," Alexander said. "I had watched [film on Britt] and he likes to sit back, so I'd hit him with the bull [rush] and beat him on the outside by staying low. Plus, he was a younger guy, so I tried to take advantage of that."

While the talk of OU's preseason camp during August was bookend defensive end Ronnell Lewis, Alexander quietly has emerged as one of the best players on the Sooners' defense.

"Me and Travis Lewis say a prayer before every game to let us go out and play hard," Alexander said. "We've been here for five years, so we have to play hard no matter what goes on, so the young guys can feed off of me and the energy I'm trying to bring, that's been the key for me."

The Louisiana native has 15 tackles including 3.5 tackles for loss, a team-leading 2.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and one interception. He's approached his final season in crimson and cream with renewed focus.

Now, he's looking to get his teammates to do the same.

"I'm trying to set an example to my teammates and even the young guys [who aren't playing]," Alexander said of his outstanding start in 2011. "So whenever I'm gone, my legacy is still left behind."

Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation.

Follow SoonerNation's coverage on Twitter: