Oklahoma defense in midseason form, feeling confident heading into matchup with Tulsa



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NORMAN, Oklahoma — Oklahoma said all summer it expected to field a better defense than the unit that led the Big 12 in total defense last year.

The Sooners are off to a good start. They shut down Louisiana Tech for much of a 48-16 win Saturday night. Oklahoma 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," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday. "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. Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma's other starting inside linebacker, 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 Saturday at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane defeated Tulane 38-31 in double overtime in their opener last Thursday. Quarterback Dane Evans passed for 438 yards, and Tulsa rolled up 592 yards total.

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 passes for 80 yards. Conner Floyd caught 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."


Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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