|Saturday, October 19
Everage leads OU's dominating defensive performance
By Pete Thamel
Special to ESPN.com
NORMAN, Okla. -- The slate sky, driving rain and chilly winds provided the perfect backdrop for Oklahoma's gritty defense.
On a miserable afternoon, Oklahoma flummoxed Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace on its way to a 49-3 win. For the second consecutive week, the Sooners made the offense of a Top 15 team look downright anemic.
"They just totally dominated our offense," Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney said. "I thought their defense was as good as I've ever coached against."
In the blowout's wake, OU inserted a hairpin turn in Wallace's Heisman joyride, holding him to downright staggering numbers.
Wallace nearly threw more interceptions (3) than completions (4 of 22), as Iowa State cobbled together just 60 total yards of offense on 45 plays, the fourth worst total in school history.
Oklahoma sacked him twice and blitzed him relentlessly, as he failed to throw a completion for positive yardage in the first half. By then, Oklahoma led 35-0, as the Sooners jammed an ugly chapter into ISU's feel-good story.
"Our defense wasn't going to let him win the Heisman today," OU defensive back Brandon Shelby said. "Not on our field. Not today."
A tight-lipped Wallace downplayed OU's defensive effort and the Heisman talk after the game.
"I don't give a hoot about no Heisman," Wallace said. "It if damages you, it damages you. But who cares?"
Two sequences defined the day for both teams. For OU's defense, it came at the end of the first half when Iowa State recovered a fumble on the Sooners' one-yard line.
OU stuffed the Cyclones on four consecutive plays, pushing them back four yards on two running plays and blanketing ISU's receivers on two Wallace incompletions.
No doubt, that's how this day will be remembered and possibly how OU's defense will be defined this season. A Heisman candidate and a formidable offense couldn't even muster a yard on four plays.
"That was probably the funnest part of any game that I've ever been a part of," OU linebacker Teddy Lehman said. "After we stopped them on first down I knew they weren't going to go in. The crowd was loud, he was trying to check plays and he couldn't. It was fun."
The game's other indelible play came after Iowa State punted on its second possession. Derrick Strait flew in untouched and blocked the ISU punt. As the ball spun to the end zone, Iowa State's Anthony Forest attempted to kick it out of bounds. He whiffed Charlie Brown style, though, and Oklahoma's Terrance Simms pounced on it for Oklahoma's first touchdown.
Things barreled downhill for Iowa State from that point. Oklahoma's press coverage, safety blitzes and dominating defensive line play overwhelmed the Cyclones.
No one shined brighter that OU safety Brandon Everage. He finished with a sack, two interceptions, four pass deflections and a quarterback hurry.
Stoops blitzed Everage early and often, the start of a frustrating day for Wallace and ISU. Credit the Oklahoma coaches, as they found a weakness in Iowa State's protection schemes and capitalized on it.
To free Everage to the quarterback, OU blitzed corner Brandon Shelby, who the running back picked up. That created a wide open alley for Everage.
"Every time I blitzed," Everage said, "I went in untouched. Every time."
It's nuances like that that make Stoops the country's best big-game coach. His record at Oklahoma improved to 10-1 against AP Top 10 opponents.
Just like last week at Texas when he pulled a huge fourth down coup to score a touchdown late in the first half, Stoops gambled three times on fourth down and succeeded on Saturday.
Oddly, after the game, Stoops gave credit to an OU player that's not even on the roster. Sophomore transfer Mark Bradley got a game ball because he mimicked Wallace so effectively in practice this week. In fact, he did a better job playing Wallace than Wallace himself, as he busted a 50-yard touchdown run on the Sooner D.
While jogging this week, Stoops saw Bradley walking to class with OU defensive end Tommie Harris.
"Hit 'em," Stoops yelled to Harris, a little joke preparation for his task on Saturday. Now, OU faces a bye-week before Colorado comes to down. And, really, everything is clicking. Their special teams dominated the game again, including another beautiful flop wedge punt by Blake Ferguson that pinned Iowa State inside the five. OU quarterback Nate Hybl didn't turn the ball over and improved to a staggering 15-1 as a starter.
OU again dominated the line of scrimmage on offense, as new running game coordinator Kevin Wilson's schemes appear to be working as OU rushed for 246 yards and five touchdowns.
"I really like how this team is gelling," Stoops said. "I feel like we may be hitting our stride at the right time."
And on this brutal day, with its whipping winds and bitter chill, OU's defense put in a performance that will resonate for years.
"It was like those NFL films clips, with the old Lambeau Field," Shelby said. "It was dark, raining and cold. But, when you're winning it's not that cold."
Pete Thamel is a Midwest-based freelancer and a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.