NORMAN, Okla. — Ruffin McNeill simplified things significantly for Oklahoma in his first game after taking over as defensive coordinator following the firing of Mike Stoops.
McNeill didn’t install anything new to the defensive game plan after noon Wednesday of game week and asked his players in the final meeting before playing TCU if there was anything they didn’t understand.
If they didn’t understand it, it would be tossed out — though McNeill said no concepts were tossed last week before the Sooners beat TCU 52-27 to improve to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in Big 12 play.
The streamlined look wasn’t just a one-game maneuver, though. That’s how McNeill operates and has for years.
McNeill’s defense will get its second showing Saturday when the No. 8 Sooners host Kansas State (3-4, 1-3).
“Maybe this week with(out) a bye week, there’ll be some things,” McNeill said of players asking to toss things out. “But I’ve always done that as a coordinator — make sure the boys understand the calls. They may know them, but I want them to be really confident in what we call. And if that takes us down to playing a base defense, so be it.”
Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said he didn’t see any big changes structurally with what the Sooners did.
“They’re very much the same football team that they were on the defensive side of the ball, on both sides actually, but certainly on the defensive side,” Snyder said. “I saw some tweaks, a few things, that you might consider to be changes — don’t know if they’re changes or are just there and hadn’t surfaced previously. But by and large, it’s the same defense.”
Oklahoma did use more of a four-man defensive line, with freshman defensive end Ronnie Perkins seeing more playing time than he’s had to this point, and made a few other personnel changes.
The Sooners have struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks in recent years, though the Wildcats haven’t been able to keep defenses honest much so far. Kansas State is averaging a Big 12-worst 164.7 passing yards per game.
The Wildcats have recently gone from a two-quarterback system with Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson to Thompson handling most of the duties.
“I think Skyler is coming into his own, he’s made improvement, and we’ll find out for sure, but from a mental approach, I think he’s a collected young guy.”
Since mid-September, Thompson hasn’t thrown for more than 150 yards in any game but has rushed for a combined 130 yards in the Wildcats’ last two outings.
“Kansas State does it in a lot of different way. I mean Kansas State really majors in it,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said of the quarterback run game. “There’s some things schematically that are similar, but Kansas State is a little bit of a different animal that way.”
Delton ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns against the Sooners a year ago.
“Kansas State’s quarterback run game is as advanced as anybody’s in the country,” Riley said. “They really build a ton around it and challenge you in different ways.”
Kansas State also has the leading rusher in the conference in Alex Barnes, who is averaging 112.6 yards.
Barnes is only 31 yards from topping his yardage total from last season.
“He’s been good defining where to run the ball and picking running lanes, etc., although he’s always been pretty decent at that,” Snyder said. “He’s playing well in all categories and yet for the most part that’s not a surprise to anybody.”
Riley said Barnes reminded him of Rodney Anderson, the Oklahoma running back who is out for the season after rushing for more than 1,100 yards a year ago.
“He’s a big guy with a lot of physicality, but also has big play ability and then, you can tell he really understands their schemes,” Riley said. “He’s very patient, like the great Kansas State backs are. Really sets up the blocks well.
“They’ve got a good combination going.”