Defense on alert for No. 14 Sooners against Baylor
By JEFF LATZKE
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Javon Harris just couldn't wait to sneak an extra peek at the Baylor offense that caused him and the rest of Oklahoma's defense so many problems a year ago.
So, in the middle of a class early this week, Harris pulled out teammate Joseph Ibiloye's iPad and revisited the worst defensive performance in Sooners history.
"I shouldn't have been, but I was watching it in class," Harris admitted. "I've watched the Baylor game from last year a lot of times."
Harris and No. 14 Oklahoma (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) get their long-awaited rematch Saturday against the Bears (4-4, 1-4), who are leading the nation in offense even with Robert Griffin III no longer on the roster after winning the Heisman Trophy last season.
"They're a big play team and a home run waiting to happen," said Harris, who got benched during last year's 45-38 Baylor win, as Griffin's career day helped the Bears amass 616 total yards - the most ever allowed by Oklahoma.
"We're just going to continue to play our defense and do what we've been doing all year. We're looking forward to it, and I'm looking forward to another big game."
Griffin's replacement, Nick Florence, will face same secondary that was victimized in last year's game but with a different look. Harris has switched from free safety to strong safety, Tony Jefferson moved from nickel back to free safety and Aaron Colvin is now playing cornerback instead of safety.
All the changes under defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who replaced Brent Venables, have led to the Sooners being ranked 12th in the nation in pass defense (170 yards per game).
"We've been complicated enough, but simple enough that we're not having breakdowns ourselves and giving up big plays because of our actions," head coach Bob Stoops said. "We've really reduced that."
The Bears, coming off their first Big 12 win against last-place Kansas, had lost all 20 meetings against Oklahoma before the breakthrough last November.
"We absolutely have confidence from last year," Florence said. "We beat them last year and it's a good deal and we will feed off of that, but at the same time it's a totally different year and we are a totally different team and they are a totally different team.
"So, yeah, we beat them last year. That's great, but it's a new year, it's a new time and let's write a new chapter this year."
For Oklahoma, this week marks a shift in the schedule to a stretch against three of the league's most potent offenses. Between the top-rated Bears and the Bedlam rivalry game against Oklahoma State's No. 2 offense, there's a road trip to face West Virginia and one-time Heisman contender Geno Smith.
"For defensive backs, now it's time for us to shine and go out here and do what we've been practicing all year for, really showing what we can do," Harris said.
Oklahoma's starters have allowed only one touchdown pass all season and haven't allowed any team to come within 200 yards of Griffin's 479-yard performance last season.
"You have your matchups and you still have to go do it and execute properly and be fundamentally sound in what you're doing. You have to go do it," Bob Stoops said. "We'll know what we're doing and so we'll see where it goes come Saturday."
On the flip side, Baylor's defense has given up the most yardage of any team in the Bowl Subdivision and will be trying to build on its best performance of the season. The Bears' 342 yards allowed to Kansas were a season low snapped a streak of five straight opponents who had gained at least 500 yards.
It also ended a four-game losing streak.
"It helps a bunch without question, because you have to feel right about what is going on in order to feel right as a team," coach Art Briles said. "It is definitely a boost to the morale and to the confidence, and it was much needed.
"Our initial goal every year is to get bowl eligible. If you can count to six, then you have a chance to do it. We are at four right now, so we need a couple of more wins."
Updated November 9, 2012