Few teams in the Big 12 go into a league game expecting a defensive slugfest.
But old-school defense is making a comeback, at least among teams with realistic shots at the league title.
All five Big 12 teams that won Saturday held their opponents far below their season average for points. In fact, none of them allowed the opposition to score more than 21 points.
That includes Texas Tech, which grabbed everyone's attention and jumped back into the rankings by stuffing high-powered West Virginia in a 49-14 blowout win.
"We play hard. (Defensive coordinator) Art Kaufman and his coaches have done a good job of sticking with fundamentals," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. "For the first six games we haven't done anything exotic. We just teach the same things each week and we've gotten better at it."
The 18th-ranked Red Raiders (5-1, 2-1) are flourishing under Kaufman, a newcomer to the coaching staff who has worked wonders with a unit previously marked by instability.
Kaufman is the fourth defensive coordinator in four years at Texas Tech and the third new one in a row for Tuberville. But the Red Raiders have been strong on defense all season, and on Saturday they held quarterback Geno Smith to a completion percentage of 52.7 — nearly 30 points lower than his average over his first five games.
Texas Tech is second in the Big 12 at 16.3 points allowed per game, an astounding 23 points better than last year.
"One thing that he's brought to the table is just a sense of patience and understanding of you can only go so far in a short period of time," Tuberville said of Kaufman. "He teaches hand placement. He teaches how to play with our eyes and he teaches gap control. And we haven't gone beyond that."
TCU (5-1, 2-1) has the league's top defense. It bounced back Saturday from a home loss to Iowa State with a surprisingly easy road victory over Baylor and its explosive offense.
The Bears racked up 432 yards in just over 18 minutes of possession. But the Horned Frogs forced six Baylor turnovers, including four interceptions of Bears senior Nick Florence, in a 49-21 victory.
The Red Raiders and Horned Frogs are among five Big 12 teams allowing fewer than 18 points per game.
It's no surprise that league leader Kansas State (6-0, 3-0) is also on that list.
The Wildcats have allowed just 21 points in their last six quarters. After shutting out rival Kansas in the second half of a 56-16 thrashing, Kansas State held Iowa State to just seven points in the second half on Saturday and stuffed the Cyclones on fourth-down tries twice in the final five minutes.
Kansas State also held the ball for more than 40 minutes against Iowa State. Such a discrepancy in time of possession might be the key to slowing down Heisman Trophy hopeful Smith and the Mountaineers when they host the Wildcats this weekend.
"Their offense was productive as well, and consequently West Virginia didn't get its hands on the ball as much as they had in previous ballgames," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said about Texas Tech's performance against West Virginia.
Oklahoma fell off the national radar a bit after it lost at home to Kansas State a few weeks back. The Sooners seem to have sorted things out in part because of a defense strengthened by the arrival of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
Oklahoma (4-1, 2-1) allowed just 20 and 21 points respectively in wins over Tech and Texas, and that includes three touchdowns let up by the Sooners backups in garbage time.
"It's been our belief that you don't play good defense by trying to fool people or trying to blitz," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "We pick our times when we do change up or blitz or what not. But we're counting on our technique and our fundamentals and playing good solid defense to win for us."
West Virginia has put up some dizzying numbers, but there was always going to come a day when the Mountaineers would need to lean on their defense. It came Saturday — and West Virginia let up 676 yards.
"I don't think anybody across the country in the history of football is able to put up the kind of numbers that we were on a very, very, very consistent basis," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We've got to be able to win some games on other areas of the field as well, such as special teams and defense."
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