Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 19, 2018 at 11:24 pm.

Riley still insists defense isn’t that far away

When Lincoln Riley went back and watched the film of last week’s 55-40 win over Kansas, he was a bit surprised he didn’t see more problems with his defense.

“I was proud of our communication. I thought we were in the right calls. I thought we were in the right position. There’s maybe one or two busts in the game,” Riley said.

“We mentally played very clean. … I honestly was a little surprised of how clean we played defensively as far as guys being where they need to be, not busting calls, adjustments and checks from the sideline.”

But tackling was an issue against the Jayhawks, with Riley saying Oklahoma’s yards allowed after contact was the highest this season by far. He wouldn’t reveal how many tackles the Sooners missed based on their tally, but said it was unacceptably high.

With the Sooners traveling to West Virginia on Friday with a Big 12 Championship Game berth on the line, Oklahoma needs to clean up that issue quickly — while not “springing new leaks,” as Riley said after the win over Kansas. The Mountaineers are No. 5 in the country in passing yards per game and No. 9 in scoring offense.

“I feel like guys, we just didn’t finish with our technique. We didn’t focus on the fundamentals of just tackling and playing free,” linebacker Kenneth Murray said.

“In some instances, I know for me personally, I was leaning more, not really running my feet on my tackles and stuff like that. So, I missed a couple of tackles here and there. I know for other guys, it was just not really having the technique that we usually have, especially the first couple of weeks we had under coach (Ruffin McNeill, Oklahoma’s interim defensive coordinator).”

The winner of Friday’s game will be the top seed in the title game, playing Texas if the Longhorns can get past Kansas the same day. If Texas loses, then back-to-back games against the Mountaineers could be a possibility for the Sooners.

The Sooners have allowed an average of more than 44 points per game over the last three games and won all three.

Riley said there are still plenty of problems for his defense, but also that he feels like there is still time to correct them.

“I still feel like we can be what we need to be,” Riley said. “We’re playing a little too hesitant, not as aggressive as we need to play, as far as triggering and making plays, and if you do that against really good athletes in space, you’re gonna pay.”