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Texas Tech’s Air Raid to test McNeill’s Oklahoma defense

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — So far, so good for Ruffin McNeill.
Oklahoma’s interim defensive coordinator has looked like a savior the past two weeks while helping a once-struggling unit find its groove. After the Sooners gave up 493 yards to Baylor and 501 to Texas in the two games before firing defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, the Sooners held TCU to 275 yards and Kansas State to 245 in two wins.
The challenge is much greater this week. The seventh-ranked Sooners (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) visit Texas Tech and its high-powered Air Raid offense Saturday. Texas Tech (5-3, 3-2) ranks 10th nationally in points per game, seventh in total offense and third in yards passing per game.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, once a quarterback and assistant coach at Texas Tech, knows all about what the Sooners are in for. The Red Raiders haven’t changed what they do all that much since his days with the program.
“They’ve majored in it for a long time,” Riley, said. “There’s a long history there, both the staff, all the players. That’s all they’ve ever known, it’s all they’ve ever done. I think there’s an expectation level there to be very good offensively. I think that’s something that was established a long time ago that has carried through.”
McNeill knows about it, too. He was on Tech’s staff for nearly a decade, most recently as defensive coordinator. He was Tech’s linebackers coach when Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was still playing quarterback for the Red Raiders.
“Just an incredible man and an incredible leader,” Kingsbury said. “Kind of a father figure to all of is. Always made you feel like you were 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Always remembered your story, who you were, what you’re about. One of my favorite people in this world.”
Those qualities about McNeill haven’t changed, and they are among the reasons the Sooners feel they are ready for the challenge. He has instilled a mentality that the next play is more important than the last.
“When we get hit with adversity, we fight,” Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray said. “No matter what happens, we fight. So with Ruff becoming the DC, he obviously is preaching FIDO, forget it and drive on. No matter what happens, good or bad, forget it and drive on.”
McNeill also has made things easier for the players, simplifying the game to allow them to focus on playing rather than overthinking.
“At the end of the day, Ruff is going to keep it simple for us,” he said. “He’s going to make it simple for us. All he asks us for is to give great effort. That’s all that he asks for, and it makes it easy to play for him.”
McNeill has talked about delivering tough love to his players, challenging and encouraging his players at the same time. Murray said the players have taken to McNeill’s positive approach.
“His style is 100 percent calm,” Murray said. “I would say 200 percent calm.”
That calm will be necessary against Tech. The Red Raiders have another outstanding quarterback in freshman Alan Bowman. Oklahoma’s recent success has Riley looking forward to seeing what McNeill’s defense can do against the Red Raiders.
“I do think the fact that we’re just playing better as a whole right now is the biggest positive going into it, biggest reason why we’ve played better the last couple of weeks,” Riley said. “We’re going to obviously need to do that again this week. I’m always excited to see our guys get challenged, especially in great road environments like this. Should be a fun one. They challenge everybody. We should get their best.”

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