When Mike Stoops was fired and McNeill was installed as interim defensive coordinator after the debacle against Texas, the fate of the defense was up to the players and coaches that remained.
“I’ve said it a bunch, but I really think this is where it lies: We all had to own it,” Riley said.
Texas Tech’s offense isn’t quite as prolific as that Patrick Mahomes-led attack. But the Red Raiders are still the second-most dangerous offense in the Big 12, and the most dangerous the Sooners figure to face except in practice.
But Barnes offered no equivocations, no qualifiers about the difficulty of playing defense in the Big 12 and no tempering of expectations on his side of the ball.
“For this year, we want Texas Tech to just be starstruck when we get out there,” Barnes said. “And just drive after drive, three and out after three and out — just show them that it’s not the same Oklahoma defense, and that we’re different and we’re bringing a different attitude.”
The Sooners’ defense is different — McNeill’s streamlined gameplan and the additions of players like Barnes and defensive lineman Jalen Redmond to the rotation and the expanded role of freshman defensive end Ronnie Perkins, not to mention improved tackling — have helped Oklahoma play more aggressive and more free on that side of the ball.
“We’re watching a completely different defense from the first half of the season,” offensive lineman Ben Powers said.
The question moving to next week is how much better the defense is, and can it contain a passing offense that is more equipped for success through the air than TCU or Kansas State.