Last year at the Red River Shootout, the Oklahoma Sooners' defense terrorized Texas quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy all afternoon, constantly driving them into the turf of the Cotton Bowl.
The Sooners ended last season's 55-17 massacre with eight sacks, two interceptions, and three fumble recoveries, a defensive performance most teams can only dream about.
This season, the Sooners haven't had a dominant defensive performance just yet, but in Saturday's 41-20 win over Texas Tech, the defense picked off three passes and sacked Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege twice. It was a big step in the right direction.
"I think it was real important," defensive end RJ Washington said. "We came out (and) we played well. I think it was a confidence boost, not only for the defense, but the offense as well."
Saturday, the Sooners will be facing a completely different quarterback than the one they saw a year ago. Sophomore David Ash has matured in a big way, throwing for 1,276 yards so far this season. He's completing 77.5 percent of his passes, and has thrown 11 touchdowns to just a single interception. His passing efficiency of 180.1 is good for third in the country.
"Last year he was good, he had all the tools he needed to shred a defense," Washington said. "When you have more confidence in yourself, and you know your coaches are behind you, you're going to play better. You're not going to worry about making mistakes."
The confidence the Texas coaches have in Ash has expanded the Longhorns' offense dramatically. OU knows the key to stopping Texas is to rattle Ash like they did all afternoon last season.
"He looks a lot more comfortable," cornerback Aaron Colvin said. "Hopefully we can make him a little uncomfortable this week and see where that leads us."
Something OU has struggled with this season is putting pressure on the quarterback without blitzing. Washington said being able to do that against Texas is a huge key to the game.
"If we can get pressure on him (Ash) with the front four and disrupt everything he's doing, it would help tremendously," Washington said. We don't need to be blitzing every play just to get pressure.
"A lot of it comes down to the four of us and if we're making plays, getting pressure and getting him rattled, it's going to be a long day for Texas. That's going to be on us and that's not something that's just going to happen. We have to go make it happen."
However, the pressure isn't entirely reliant upon the defensive line. The secondary can play a big part by providing solid coverage on Texas receivers, leading to coverage sacks for the OU defense.
"I feel like they play hand in hand," Colvin said about the pressure from the defensive line and good coverage by the secondary. "Once we have a good rush, I feel like we can cover better and when we cover better, it allows the rush to get there. We both need each other."
The Sooners will need both units to be performing at their highest level in order to contain the Texas offense. That all starts up front with getting pressure on Ash, and if OU can do that consistently, it's possible people might start wondering if they're watching the 2011 game all over again.