ARLINGTON, Texas — A fancy football palace like Jerry Jones $1.3 billion Cowboy Stadium was the perfect place to highlight a revamped, re-energized BYU defense in Saturday's 14-13 win over No. 3 Oklahoma.
Capped with a six-play goal-line stand by the defense that set up a dramatic 78-yard winning touchdown drive by BYU's offense, the biggest surprise of the day was the Cougar defense and work of new full-time play-caller, coordinator Jaime Hill.
Folks finally saw what Hill and coaches Steve Kaufusi, Paul Tidwell and Barry Lamb could do with a few more bodies and flexibility.
"I thought our defense played outstanding," said Bronco Mendenhall, who watched as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops was very careful in having Heisman Trophy quarterback Sam Bradform attack the Cougar zone secondary deep.
Instead, Oklahoma chose to dink and dunk at BYU's new corners and blast at the smaller BYU defensive line with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray.
It hardly worked. BYU's hard-hitting defenders changed the tempo of the game to the Cougar's favor.
As a result, BYU didn't allow the Sooners a big, long play all day. Safety Andrew Rich forced two fumbles and Coleby Clawson, a converted defensive back playing outside linebacker, took Bradford out of the game with a bone-crunching hit after a second-quarter throw.
Oklahoma had only one fumble all last season. The Sooners averaged 32 points per half a year ago and scored 50 passing touchdowns.
BYU's defense, sporting new corners Brandon Bradley and JC transfer Brian Logan, got plenty of highlight time in the Cougars' debut. The Cougars appeared very fast up front in hassling OU's young offensive line and easily cut off attempts to attack the perimeter.
Aggressive, more athletic and quick, BYU's six-play defensive goal-line stand in late in the fourth quarter may have been the series of plays of the game. Oklahoma averaged just 4.6 yards per play and managed just 265 yards total offense for the game.
Granted, Bradford played only one half. But Murray and Brown are among the Big 12's best.
"We won the game because of the defense," said tight end Andrew George. "They battled the entire game after we put them in some tough situations with turnovers. They saved us with the goal line stand that held them to a field goal and on their final drive. My hat's off to the defense."