No. 12 Oklahoma's Sharks missing their bite
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AP College Football Writer
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - The self-proclaimed "Sharks'' on Oklahoma's defense are getting eaten alive.
The same Sooners defensive backs who pulled their nickname from a Lil Wayne song and were praised early in the season are getting attention again after another opponent put up massive passing numbers in a loss that knocked Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2 Big 12) out of the national championship race.
Robert Griffin III broke Baylor's school record by throwing for 479 yards and Oklahoma yielded 616 total yards - the most in the history of the storied program - in a 45-38 loss Saturday night.
"We didn't play as well as we need to defensively,'' coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday. "I think that's obvious to everybody.''
Stoops said it was a series of mistakes that led to the big numbers, including poor communication, failures to handle the Bears' fast pace and simply bad coverage.
"No defense wants to give up that type of points, that type of yards to teams like that because they can expose you,'' cornerback Demontre Hurst said. "That's what they did to us on Saturday. Our pride is messed up and we've just got to fight back from that loss.''
Free safety Javon Harris accepted the blame for his own failings, getting beaten deep after biting on play-action fakes because he was focused on the backfield instead of the receiver he was supposed to be covering.
He wasn't the only guilty party. Harris wasn't even on the field when Oklahoma gave up Griffin's game-winning, 34-yard strike with 8 seconds left.
"We were all pretty frustrated after the game because that's not the standards of the University of Oklahoma to just come out and let people run and gun all over the field,'' defensive end David King said. "I'd say our pride was a little bit hurt, but we've just got to put it behind us and move forward.''
It's been a downhill slide for Oklahoma's pass defense since making it to the halfway point of the season allowing only 201 yards per game through the air against opponents whose offenses are centered around the running game.
Texas Tech's Seth Doege carved up the Sooners for 441 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-38 upset on Owen Field last month when Oklahoma was without starting cornerback Jamell Fleming. It was during that game that the stadium crew started playing the "Jaws'' theme and putting a warning about sharks on the scoreboard on third downs.
But a new low point came in the loss to Baylor. It was the most yardage ever given up by the Sooners, surpassing the 609 yards by Iowa State in 1989, according to team historian Mike Brooks.
"We have to bring our mentality and bring our swagger back,'' Hurst said. "We kind of lost it on Saturday but we'll be back. We'll be all right. We just have to learn from it, own up to it and just become a man down the road.''
As the secondary watched its performance on film this week, Hurst said the players were saying to themselves: "That shouldn't have happened.''
"Watching that, it was pretty ugly but we played it, we did it, so we have to own up to it and just learn from it and really try to make a commitment to not have another game like that,'' Hurst said.
Their next opponent is Iowa State, which has become more of a passing threat with new starting quarterback Jared Barnett. In an upset of then-No. 2 Oklahoma State last week, Barnett threw for 376 yards - a season-best for the Cyclones.
The Sooners' two dreadful defensive performances have come against two of the nation's top seven passing offenses, and there's not much time to make corrections before they face Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma State's second-ranked pass attack that's averaging 402 yards.
Those challenges are just a part of playing in the wide-open Big 12, which boasts four of the top seven passing teams in the Bowl Subdivision.
"You're always on high stress on every play,'' Fleming said. "But that's what we came to OU for.''
Stoops wouldn't divulge whether he planned to make any personnel changes. When presented with the option of moving nickel back Tony Jefferson to free safety and putting Joseph Ibiloye in his place - a lineup used previously this year - Stoops said, "Believe me, I thought of that.''
"Sometimes you can rob Peter to pay Paul, right? You're going to pay somewhere,'' he said.
Stoops said he believes all of the problems can be fixed.
"We're all dissatisfied because we didn't feel we executed as well as we could but it wasn't because of not wanting to, not playing hard and those kind of things,'' Stoops said. "I'm sitting here angry like everybody that we didn't play well enough to win but that part of it's there.''
Oklahoma still has a chance to win its eighth Big 12 championship, needing to beat both Iowa State and Oklahoma State for that to happen.
"We still have a lot in front of us,'' Hurst said. "We just have to really bite down and try to get to it because these next two offenses are really going to come after us.''