Sooners' defense looking to make amends against OSU

Updated: October 28, 2003, 8:35 PM ET

NORMAN, Okla. -- It was difficult enough trying to slow Oklahoma State's prolific pass-catch combo of Josh Fields and Rashaun Woods the past two seasons.

Now, Oklahoma has to worry about Tatum Bell, too.

The emergence of Bell, the nation's second-leading rusher, gives the top-ranked Sooners (8-0) yet another reason to fret as they prepare for Saturday's intrastate showdown against 14th-ranked Oklahoma State (7-1).

"We know the task we have ahead," Sooners defensive tackle Tommie Harris said during the weekly media luncheon on Tuesday. "We want another shot at them."

That's because Oklahoma State has had its way with the Sooners' vaunted defense the past two years. The Cowboys' offense, led by Fields and Woods, has left its mark all over Oklahoma in consecutive victories.

In 2001, the duo hooked up for eight receptions for 129 yards and the game-winning score in Oklahoma State's 16-13 upset win.

They outdid themselves against the Sooners last year.

Fields and Woods connected for three touchdowns and a school-record 226 yards on 12 catches as the Cowboys romped 38-28.

"Everything seemed to work the way we wanted it to," Woods said.

Bell, then a relative unknown, tacked on 106 yards rushing as the Sooners' defense suffered through a humiliating afternoon.

"It was as bad as we could possibly play," Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman said. "We were on our heels the whole game. We couldn't do anything right."

The Sooners' task will be tougher this year.

Bell has become the focus of Oklahoma State's offense this season, even though Woods and Fields have been as effective as last season. The senior tailback is averaging 135.1 yards rushing, an impressive number considering he had just two carries in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette after being benched for an early fumble.

"Tatum Bell is a heck of a player," Harris said. "We know what type of guy he is if you let him loose."

Even if the Sooners stuff Bell, they still have to contend with Woods.

Woods leads the Big 12 in receiving yards (913) and touchdowns (11). And the 6-foot-2 senior seems to have a knack for exposing every single-coverage mistake the Sooners make.

"Anytime someone gets something like that against you and doesn't really earn it, it kills you," Lehman said. "It's miserable for all of us."

Oklahoma, boasting the nation's fifth-ranked defense, will likely mount a much better challenge this time.

The Sooners have 20 sacks in the past four games, have not allowed a touchdown longer than 27 yards this season and have their best defensive player -- Harris -- at full strength.

"(Last year) I was out-of-whack. I was barely moving," said Harris, who battled through a nagging groin injury much of last season. "I couldn't tell you what happened in the backfield because I wasn't ever back there."

Harris plans to be back there this time.

"I haven't beat them in two years," said Harris, a junior. "Hopefully, after the game, we'll have their respect." ^EXTRA POINTS: Receiver Mark Clayton and defensive lineman Lynn McGruder are two of the 17 nominees for this year's Football Writers Association of America Most Courageous Award. The award honors someone in college football who "shows great courage in the face of adversity." Clayton and McGruder pulled three injured passengers from a van after a collision on Interstate 35 this past summer. The driver in another car died in the crash. ... Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops hasn't had much to say in response to Oklahoma State coach Les Miles' remark earlier this week that the Sooners are "the best team in college football ... we are told." Asked about his relationship with Miles, Stoops quipped: "It's fair to say we're not calling each other up and going to dinner." ... Stoops did address, however, the subject of a yearlong dispute between him and Miles: the date of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game. Miles wants the game played the Saturday after Thanksgiving; Stoops doesn't like that date because it's the week before the Big 12 title game -- the Sooners have played in two of the last three league championships. "You can't argue with our reasons," Stoops said. "The game is going to be played regardless. I don't know why that week is better than this week."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index