What's wrong with Oklahoma's defense?

NORMAN, Okla. – Coach Bob Stoops built a dynasty at Oklahoma with a dominant defense, so it’s stunning to have to scan so far down the national defensive rankings to find the Sooners.

How low do you have to go? All the way down to 97th overall in total defense.

Oklahoma is 4-0 despite allowing 421.3 yards per game – and more than 400 yards three times already this season. The Sooners rank in the 90s against the run (177.5 yards per game, 93rd) and pass (243.8 yards, 90th).

“We’re not what the numbers say,” defensive tackle Adrian Taylor said. “We’ve just got to get on track in a hurry and play Oklahoma football.”

The scheme, which the Sooners used to rank fifth in the nation in total defense (223.3 yards) and first against the run (40.7), hasn’t suddenly become flawed. The talent hasn’t drastically dropped off, with defensive end Jeremy Beal, linebacker Travis Lewis and safety Quinton Carter all considered candidates for major national awards.

Players and coaches agree that effort isn’t an issue, either. The biggest problem is the Sooners’ tendency to allow big plays, which stems from sloppy technique, poor tackling and too many mental errors. Redshirt freshman linebacker Tom Wort took a lot of the blame for several big plays by Cincinnati, although Stoops defended Wort during his Tuesday press conference.

“I have confidence in this defense,” Lewis said. “Looking at the film over these past four games, we’ve been inconsistent and we’ve been messing up on little things. Those are two things that as time goes on you can fix. I feel like we have a lot of playmakers on this defense. I’m not worried about it.”

Added Stoops: “We want to be more consistent. We’re working on it. I believe we can. I’m confident guys will settle in and start making those plays.”