Oklahoma, Oklahoma State take improving defenses into Bedlam
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By CLIFF BRUNT
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have lit up the scoreboard when they have faced off in recent years.
There are indications that this year's Bedlam showdown might be different, even with both teams boasting their usual high-powered offenses.
No. 7 Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, No. 7 CFP) leads the Big 12 in total defense and pass defense under first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. The Sooners are allowing just 336.2 yards per game. That's quite a leap for a team that posted some of the worst defensive numbers in the nation last year.
"Just look at our tackle numbers, sack numbers, tackles for loss numbers - they're quite a bit different," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said.
No. 21 Oklahoma State (8-3, 5-3, No. 21 CFP) has a playmaking unit that has forced 10 turnovers during a four-game win streak.
"They have a really good scheme and they play well," Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts said. "They have really good players. They get to the ball fast and they play the ball well."
Kenneth Murray leads Oklahoma's defense with 7.2 tackles per game and 12 tackles for loss. Ronnie Perkins leads the Sooners with six sacks and Jalen Redmond has four. Parnell Motley has 10 passes defensed and Tre Brown has eight. Nose guard Neville Gallimore attracts attention and does the dirty work that frees up the people around him to make plays.
The past three games, Oklahoma's defense has made key plays in the final minutes to help preserve victories.
"Obviously you're getting outcomes, so that's the main objective," Grinch said. "Showing some resiliency in certain situations."
Oklahoma State's Kolby Harvell-Peel leads the conference and ranks third nationally in passes defended with 18. The safety has five interceptions, tied for second in the Big 12. He also has forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles.
Malcolm Rodriguez leads the Cowboys with 83 tackles. He scored the game-winning touchdown against Iowa State on a 26-yard interception return.
Amen Ogbongbemiga is second on the team in tackles with 80 and leads the team with 14 tackles for loss. Harvell-Peel is third on the team with 64 tackles.
"They've been active," Riley said. "They've ripped a couple of balls out and they've been very opportunistic in the throw game. You watch them - the majority of the ones that (can be intercepted) - they've made the plays. They've done a nice job with it."
Hurts and Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard are trying to make late Heisman pushes, and this game gives both an ideal spotlight. Hubbard, a Doak Walker Award finalist, leads the nation with 1,832 yards rushing. He has four games with more than 200 yards rushing this season.
Hurts has completed 71.4% of his passes for 3,184 yards and 30 touchdowns. He ranks third nationally in passer efficiency and second in total offense. He also has rushed for 1,156 yards this season, the second-most in a single season for an Oklahoma quarterback behind Jack Mildren.
Hubbard and Gallimore are from different parts of Canada, but they are undeniably connected.
Hubbard is from Sherwood Park, near Edmonton. Gallimore is from Ottawa, the capital city.
Their hometowns are a little over 2,100 miles apart. Though they aren't friends, they keep up with each other.
"He did a lot of good things for us a brought a lot of exposure to his city and Canada as well," Hubbard said. "I see he's doing good things at OU. I respect that guy."
Gallimore said he always roots for Canadian players.
"Another Canadian who has a dream of trying to play ball at the highest level," he said. "There's definitely a lot of value in that. There's always a love seeing a guy come from the same country as you. You understand what adversity you've got to come through."
ONE MAN SHOW?
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has called Hurts a one-man show, but Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks is averaging 125 yards rushing the past three games. He ran for 149 yards on 25 carries last week in a win over TCU. With fellow running back Trey Sermon out for the season with an injury and Oklahoma's offensive line improving, Brooks could carry a significant load.
Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb, a Biletnikoff Award finalist, is looking to return to form.
Lamb caught at least one touchdown pass the first six games this season and has 11 his past seven games. He didn't play against Baylor two weeks ago because he was out with an undisclosed injury. He only had two catches for 16 yards against TCU, though one was for a touchdown. He usually produces in important games.
Oklahoma has won its past three games by a combined eight points. The Sooners beat Iowa State 42-41, Baylor 34-31 and TCU 28-24.
In its four-game win streak, Oklahoma State has three wins by seven points - over Iowa State, TCU and West Virginia.
Freelance writer John Tranchina contributed to this report.
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Updated November 29, 2019