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Sooners eager to firm up defense ahead of Bedlam

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Sooners eager to firm up defense ahead of Bedlam

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma defensive end David King knew what was coming Monday, even before watching film of the Sooners' wild 50-49 win at West Virginia.

The Sooners had a poor defensive outing of historical proportions and it took a record-setting performance - including a last-minute touchdown drive - by quarterback Landry Jones to bail them out. The weekly defensive film session figured to be somewhat unpleasant.

``There will be some words said,'' King said. ``You have to take it as part of football. You're going to be coached. You have to deal with it.''

What No. 14 Oklahoma (8-2, 6-1 Big 12) will have to deal with on Saturday will be an Oklahoma State squad that uses the same offensive philosophy as West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen, who was the Cowboys' offensive coordinator for a year before becoming the Mountaineers' head coach.

No. 22 Oklahoma State (7-3, 5-2) has the conference's top running back in Joseph Randle and ranks third in the Bowl Subdivision in total offense at 553.7 yards per game. Seeing as how the Sooners gave up 344 yards rushing to West Virginia's receiver-turned-running back, Tavon Austin, there is cause for concern in the Oklahoma camp entering the annual Bedlam showdown.

``It starts with the front seven,'' King said. ``I think a couple of times last week, we were caught with seven (defensive backs) on the field and it's kind of hard to play the run. Still, guys have to make plays and guys have to step up. Big-time players make big-time plays on a stage like that. It's something we have to fix. Our pass defense has been pretty good all year. Our run defense hasn't been as stout as our pass defense and it's something we have to pick up these last two weeks, especially with OSU coming in here on Saturday.''

Austin broke the previous opponent rushing record against Oklahoma - 235 yards by Darren Sproles of Kansas State in the 2003 Big 12 title game - by 109 yards. Austin's 572 all-purpose yards against the Sooners was six shy of the FBS record, held by Emmitt White of Utah State. West Virginia's Steadman Bailey also caught four touchdown passes, joining Fred Biletnikoff as the only receivers to do that against Oklahoma. Biletnikoff did it for Florida State in the 1964 Gator Bowl.

The Mountaineers finished with 778 yards of offense. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops offered another eye-catching number as a sort of explanation - 20 missed tackles by the Sooners.

``We haven't had that in a long, long time,'' Stoops said, saying Austin should receive credit ``for making people miss him. ... He did an excellent job.''

But Stoops said the Sooners - who often used the seven defensive backs in a scheme to limit West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith - also helped Austin.

``I feel like we could tackle better in some instances,'' Stoops said. ``Again, structurally in what we're asking our guys to do, we'll need to make some adjustments and will hopefully defend the run better. That will be a key issue, obviously, this coming week.''

Stoops declined to reveal what changes the Sooners were considering. He defended free safety Tony Jefferson, who took much of the blame for what happened at West Virginia.

``We're asking them a little bit too much sometimes to make some tackles in some areas where it's pretty difficult,'' Stoops said of his defensive backs. ``So that's where we've got to make some adjustments, in how we're playing some of our guys up front in front of them, too. We've got our hand in it as coaches, too, to try and make some adjustments to give those guys a fair opportunity, too.

On the positive side for the Sooners, they also had a record-setting offensive outing. Jones completed 38 of 51 passes for a school-record 554 yards and tied his own school mark by throwing six touchdown passes, the last to Kenny Stills with 24 seconds left.

Jones, named Monday as the Big 12's offensive player of the week, has 15,624 yards in career passing and needs 170 more to pass Graham Harrell of Texas Tech as the Big 12's leader in that category. King praised Jones and the Oklahoma offense for making sure the Sooners won.

``At the end of the day, that's the most important thing, walking out of that stadium with a win instead of a loss,'' King said. ``We'd be sitting here at 7-3 instead of 8-2. I'm proud of the way we kept fighting all year. Last year when we had the same situation (against Baylor), we didn't come out in the winning end of it. This year, we found a way to win. Our offense just kept coming and bailed us out of the game and scored one more point and made one more play.''

NOTES: Stoops says offensive lineman Daryl Williams is lost for the rest of the regular season because of a knee injury. Williams sprained a medial collateral ligament against West Virginia, but Stoops says he should be able to return for the Sooners' bowl game. Stoops says Oklahoma will decide during the week how to juggle the lineup to account for Williams' absence.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Left guard competition heating up

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Left guard competition heating up

Kick off your Monday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

1. The Ravens are still looking for a left guard and the competition is "wide open" according to Ravens media. Last week, Coach Harbaugh tried out 2017 fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor in the spot, acknowledging his hard work there.

2. Linebacker Kenny Young is expected to be a big playmaker this season. Now that C.J. Mosley is gone, Young is expected to fill that void. “I’m not going to make expectations for myself so soon, but what I expect to do right from the get-go is compete hard and make plays,” Young said to Ravens media. “My expectation is to make plays. That’s it. Make plays.”

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. ET deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens and Rotoworld for news points.

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What could the Orioles have done differently with Manny Machado?

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What could the Orioles have done differently with Manny Machado?

Brooks. Cal. Eddie. Frank. Earl.

For most Orioles icons, last names aren’t necessary. That will never be the case for Manny Machado.

In failing to extend the most purely talented player in franchise history, the Orioles cost themselves not just another one-namer for Legends Park, but also a chance to stay competitive and reload, rather than be forced into a rebuild.

With the benefit of hindsight, every organization in baseball would love to make certain moves differently. Machado should have either been an Oriole for life or the centerpiece to a franchise-altering trade.

Instead, the front office held on too long, removing the most valuable asset teams covet: years of control. As a result, the O’s found themselves with a star they couldn’t afford and a league unwilling to pay them top dollar for a rental. Halfway through a lost season, in which the team was out of playoff contention by June, the Orioles had no good options.

So, what could they have done differently? The most obvious answer is to avoid the situation entirely.

It’s no surprise to hear the front office bungled negotiations with Machado throughout his time in Baltimore. Reports suggest they were interested in an extension but scared off after multiple knee surgeries (both of which came on fluky injuries). Other reporting claims the sides came close to an extension, but Peter Angelos balked at a difference of $10 million.

Chump change for a man like Angelos, and it may have been all that kept Machado from sticking around.

Make no mistake, the Orioles, who once went more than *1,000 days* without reaching out to their best player to discuss an extension, put themselves in this unenviable position. What could they have done differently? Just about everything, especially in the years leading into 2018.

2012 and 2014 provided incredibly memorable postseason runs that Baltimore fans will never forget. They were fun, exciting and worthy of the resources put into those teams.

But 2014 was four years before the end of Machado’s contract, and the team was never close to contention again. Instead of recognizing when it was time to start over, GM Dan Duquette decided to make trades for other team’s rentals, giving up talented players for veterans who never moved the needle. He decided (or was forced by ownership) to pay an exorbitant amount to Chris Davis, the archetype of a slugging first baseman who in the course of baseball history has never aged well.

The lack of self-evaluation cost them value in the short term and wins in the long term, and it added up to completely take them out of the running to keep Machado.

Which brings us to the trade itself.

The Orioles received OF Yusniel Diaz, SP Dean Kremer, INF Rylan Bannon, RP Zach Pop and INF Breyvic Valera from Los Angeles last July in exchange for Machado.
Five guys is a lot to get back for one, but the truth is, the haul looks underwhelming. Diaz is the only player to appear on any top 100 prospect lists, and even he brings split opinions among evaluators. It doesn’t help that he’s struggled mightily since joining the organization. Kremer is the only other one who looks like a future contributor.

In an era of baseball in which star power is more important than ever, the Orioles settled for a top 100 prospect defined by his floor rather than his ceiling, with no more than depth pieces behind him. Sure, there’s value in depth, especially considering the state of the team’s farm system. But no player the O’s got back will ever come close to the success Machado found in Baltimore, and that’s disappointing.

It’s even harder to swallow when comparing to other recent deals. Just two years earlier, the Yankees brought back Gleyber Torres for three months of Aroldis Chapman. Manny Machado, an infinitely more valuable player than Chapman, topped out with Diaz.

It’s hard to say what they should have done differently without knowing the offers on the table, but it’s clear the O’s weren’t willing to pay part of Machado’s salary or take back any bad contracts, moves that would have brought additional prospects. For a team with no designs on competing anytime soon, and therefore no reason to invest big money in the big league club, that’s another disappointment.

The Machado trade was the most important move in recent memory for the franchise, and they let a lame duck GM coordinate it. When asking what could have been done differently, this is hard to ignore.

It rarely works out to have someone make major decisions for which he or she will not be around to suffer the consequences. Duquette wasn’t trying to sabotage the franchise with this move, but his vision probably doesn’t coincide with Mike Elias’. If ownership knew they weren’t retaining Duquette’s service after the season, which seems like a safe bet, why let him orchestrate such a critical trade deadline?

It all comes back to a disturbing lack of foresight with decision-makers in the organization. Hindsight may be 20/20, but foresight shouldn’t require a microscope. It was obvious to all who followed the team where this was headed, yet the Orioles continued to dig themselves into a hole, and no one came to bail them out.

Considering the situation they were in, the trade doesn’t look like an abject disaster. It certainly could have been worse. But it would have been nice to see the team go after some players with higher upside.

Nicer still would have been avoiding the situation altogether.