All week, the Oklahoma Sooners talked about coming back from a 24-19 loss to Kansas State with more intensity, focus and attitude. While each of the players was quite sincere, it sounded like what any young athlete would say after a disappointing home defeat.
By the end of Oklahoma's 41-20 dominating performance of Texas Tech Saturday afternoon, there was no doubt the Oklahoma players meant every word, and then delivered on it.
The Sooners, after giving up a touchdown on Texas Tech's opening possession, held the Red Raiders to six points the rest of the way, until Tech scored a garbage-time touchdown with less than a minute remaining. By that point, the starters had left the game, and the record crowd of 60,800 black-clad Raider fans had been gone even longer.
There were many high points for the Sooners, but ultimately, it was the OU defense that provided the fuel for all the other pieces of the Sooners to click with sound efficiency.
The defense had been living with a bend-but-don't-break mentality, ranked 12th in total defense, but dead last in the nation with only a single forced turnover coming into Saturday's game.
Saturday in Lubbock, the Sooners tripled that total, intercepting Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege three times, including one by safety Javon Harris returned 46 yards for a touchdown, putting the Sooners up 38-13, and effectively ended the game with 8:40 remaining in the third quarter.
The Sooners forced turnovers, but they also held a Texas Tech offense that came in No. 8 in the country, to 360 total yards. In fact, before the Red Raiders' final scoring drive of 86 yards, OU had held Texas Tech to 29 yards in the second half.
OU brought Mike Stoops back to Norman to shore up a defense that was full of talent, but lacking in productivity. The Sooners had been ranked in the top 10 in total defense just once since Stoops' departure after the 2003 season, after four consecutive years of being ranked in the top 10 under Stoops.
It's impossible to understate the impact a complete team can have on each individual unit. When the offense succeeds, it can drive a defense to perform well, and vice versa. Not only that, but relieves the pressure on the other unit to have to perform to near perfection in order to pick up the slack.
Saturday, OU quarterback Landry Jones, and the offense as a whole, looked completely different from two weeks ago against Kansas State. Jones was calm and collected in the pocket and had time to throw down the field to open receivers. He didn't make poor decisions that resulted in deflating turnovers.
The thing is, Jones was never in a position to have to win the game by himself. The Sooners' defensive performance ensured Texas Tech was going to have a tough time moving the football on OU, thus relieving the pressure on the Oklahoma offense to win the game by itself.
The Sooners finally looked like a team that can contend for a Big 12 championship, or even a national championship. There is still a lot of football to be played this season, and a lot of difficult opponents to face.
Just two weeks ago, many OU fans were leaving the Sooners for dead. However, thanks to the OU defense, the Sooners can look forward to the rest of the season, knowing this team has the attitude to compete for a championship.