OU's 'sharks' feast on young Longhorns

Cornerback Jamell Fleming scored one of Oklahoma's three defensive touchdowns against Texas. Jackson Laizure/Getty Images

Dallas -- The final score told it all: Oklahoma's defense 21, Texas' offense 10.

"The sharks, we totally dominated," said Sooners cornerback Demontre Hurst. "Eight sacks, three touchdowns. … We totally destroyed them."

Such is life when a Longhorn gets dumped into a shark tank. The OU defensive backs, who call themselves the "sharks," spearheaded Saturday's 55-17 feeding frenzy at the Cotton Bowl.

OU tied the school record with eight sacks and 17 tackles-for-loss. The Sooners also broke a school record with three defensive touchdowns: a 55-yard interception return by Hurst, a 19-yard fumble return by David King off Frank Alexander's sack, and a 56-yard return by cornerback Jamell Fleming, who ripped the ball away from Texas receiver Mike Davis to put OU up 55-10 early in the fourth quarter.

"We ate 'em up today," said Fleming, who also had a game-high 13 tackles. "When the sharks are ready to feast, that's how it is."

Bob Stoops wasn't sure where the defensive performance ranked, but called it "one of the more special ones, for sure."

Front to back, the Sooners were dominant. The line, which was supposed to be this defense's weak link, controlled the line of scrimmage. Linebackers Tom Wort and Travis Lewis made sure tackles.

And the defensive backs, well, they were everywhere.

"We could tell before the game was played that we were ready to play," said safety Tony Jefferson, who collected his fourth interception in two games, and blew up one of Texas' many trick-play attempts with a 15-yard sack.

"The sharks had been waiting for his game."

The sharks ignited the Sooner second-quarter scoring flurry.

Jefferson intercepted Texas freshman quarter David Ash and returned the pick 13 yards to the Texas 30-yard line. The turnover set up a Sooner touchdown, putting OU up 20-3.

Later in the quarter, Hurst stepped in front of another errant Ash pass, and dashed down the sidelines to give the Sooners a 27-3 lead.

Fleming touchdown was merely the exclamation point.

"Some guys are ball magnets. Some guys aren't," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "We have a bunch of guys who are."

Longhorn quarterbacks Ash and Case McCoy were frazzled throughout the day, unable to find creases in the Oklahoma secondary. Every time Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin tried a trick play to curb OU's momentum, the sharks had it snuffed out.

"We wanted to show the world what we're all about," Fleming said of the secondary. "We make plays and come hard on every down. That's how we think."

There are games to be played, and imperfections to be worked out. But this is shaping up to be one of the best defenses of the Stoops era, with a chance to be the best.

"Our best defenses, the defenses that have given us the chance to play in national championships, got better over the course of the year," Venables said.

This defense continues to get better.

Even without a Tommie Harris or Gerald McCoy, the tackles have more than held their own, and ends Alexander, Ronnell Lewis and David King have been ferocious.

Travis Lewis is getting closer to 100 percent since returning from a preseason foot injury, and, as Stoops predicted, Wort is "night and day" from last season.

But the sharks could be what push this defense over the top -- and into the national championship.

"We can be a great defense," Hurst said. "A championship defense."

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at trotterjake@gmail.com. and look for answers every Friday.

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