Sooner or later, playing in the Big 12 Conference was going to take its toll on Texas Tech's ranking as the nation's No. 1 total defense.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones became that Sooner, putting an end to any hope Tech faithful may have had of seeing the Red Raiders complete a fifth game with that No. 1 ranking. Jones completed 25 of 40 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns en route to
a 41-20 Oklahoma victory, all without taking a sack from a Tech defensive front that had excelled with the pass rush through its first four games.
Oklahoma (3-1, 1-1 in Big 12 play) adjusted its blocking scheme to take away the Red Raiders' inside pass rush — Tech defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, in particular, entered Saturday's bout with three sacks and five tackles for loss. The scheme proved efficient,
allowing Jones to stay comfortable in the pocket.
"We've been getting a lot of pass rush from our two inside guys," Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. "They weren't going to let that happen today. They gap-blocked everybody inside. Kept backs in to block."
A large part of Tech's (4-1, 1-1) success on defense before Saturday's loss revolved around its ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks without having to blitz often, giving its secondary the ability to play tighter coverage.
The Red Raiders' inability to fluster Jones on Saturday, however, meant resorting to blitz packages.
Tech senior D.J. Johnson could not even remember how many times he was asked to blitz from his safety position.
"Probably about five times, maybe five or six times." Johnson said.
Jones was able to fire darts to seven different receivers, showing the kind of poise he presented when he was throwing balls to former Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles, and the kind he was missing during a 24-19 loss to No. 7 Kansas State on Sept. 22.
Johnson said the easiest way to make Jones feel the way he did in that loss to the Wildcats is to take away his No. 1 read when dropping back to pass.
Too much time, however, allowed Jones to sit back and pick apart what also was the country's No. 1 passing defense.
Prior to Saturday's game, Tech's defense was allowing an average total of 167.5 yards per game — Oklahoma, as a team, gained 380 yards.
And while the Sooners were able to keep Tech's defense honest with 121 rushing yards, it will be Jones' production that Tech defenders will point toward as the difference in the game.
"The thing was, we weren't able to take away (Jones') initial read," Johnson said. "We knew coming into this game, the key would be to take away his initial read because he panics after that.
"We weren't able to get it done."
By Jose Rodriguez — Special to the Star-Telegram