Oklahoma-Tulsa Preview

(AP) – Oklahoma said all summer it expected to field a better defense than the unit that led the Big 12 in total defense last year.

Bob Stoops’ team is off to a good start.

The fourth-ranked Sooners now look to slow down an in-state foe coming off an impressive offensive showing in their first visit to Tulsa in seven years on Saturday.

Oklahoma shut down Louisiana Tech for much of a 48-16 win last Saturday. It held the Bulldogs to just 245 yards, including 54 yards rushing on 29 attempts.

Oklahoma’s starters were especially dominant. The Sooners led 31-0 before the Bulldogs scored their first points on a field goal with only seconds remaining in the first half.

”They, together, were really good,” Stoops said. ”A bunch of three-and-outs, got great pressure on the quarterback, eliminated the run game. Really had no mental problems. All of them together were really sharp. I was really pleased with that group.”

The Sooners took extra pride in stopping Tech’s run game. Oklahoma held Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech’s star running back, to 42 yards on 16 carries. The Sooners aren’t shy about saying they believe they’re elite up front.

”We take that to practice every day,” inside linebacker Dominique Alexander said. ”No one should be able to run the ball on us. If we stop the run game, it makes the offense one dimensional, and they have to throw the ball. We believe that we do have the best front seven in the country.”

The Sooners were dominant, even after linebacker Jordan Evans was ejected in the second quarter. Alexander said Caleb Gastelum stepped in and played well in Evans’ place.

”It’s something that we practice for,” Alexander said. ”We rotate in practice. Sometimes, somebody would come in for me and play with Jordan and Gas (Gastelum) would come in for Jordan and play with me, so it’s something that we’ve done in practice, and it’s something we were prepared for.”

Oklahoma’s defensive swagger could be tested at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane defeated Tulane 38-31 in double-overtime in their American Athletic Conference opener last Thursday. Dane Evans passed for 438 yards and four touchdowns, and Tulsa rolled up 592 yards total.

Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship believes Evans can have similar success against the Sooners.

"The things that he has developed are a quick release and the ability to see the field," Blankenship said. "If he will again, do those things, I think you’ll see that he’ll give us a chance to move the football."

Receiver Keevan Lucas was American Athletic Conference player of the week after catching 13 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns.

Keyarris Garrett, back after missing most of last season, caught five passes for 87 yards, and Josh Atkinson caught seven for 80 yards. Conner Floyd hauled in the game-winner, an 8-yard pass from Evans, in the second overtime.

Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez, who blocked a field goal and had an interception against Louisiana Tech, respects Tulsa’s receivers.

”They’re athletic, man,” Sanchez said. ”I watched a little bit of the Tulane game. They can go deep down the field. They have a whole lot of explosive plays in the game. The quarterback can throw it. He can definitely throw it. They have the receivers to take it down the field. We have to be on our Ps and Qs.”

Though the Golden Hurricane feel good about the passing attack in the win over Tulane, they face a much different challenge in Oklahoma.

Tulsa was outgained 607-321 in last year’s 51-20 loss, and has been outscored by an average of 37.3 points in losing seven straight matchups since a 31-24 win in 1996.

"Oklahoma’s not Tulane," Blankenship said. "They’re a little better. But I also feel very proud, very confident in our receiving corps. I think those guys have the ability to make some plays."

Blankenship said Tulsa’s focus has to be on Tulsa instead of getting caught up in the Sooners’ ranking or the fact that Oklahoma is an in-state team. The last time Oklahoma visited Tulsa in 2007, the fourth-ranked Sooners left with a 62-21 win

"If we focus on Oklahoma, then we step right into the trap that most people do when they play Oklahoma," he said. "We’ve got to be about Tulsa. And if we’ll execute – offense, defense, special teams – we can make it very difficult on them. If we don’t execute, they are good enough to take advantage of every mistake that we make. And so we don’t need to forfeit our opportunity to win by giving it away."