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November 15, 2012

Game Preview: WVU vs. Oklahoma

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Game Preview: WVU vs. OU
Series: Tied 2-2
Last meeting: 2007: WVU 48, OU 28 F
Television: 7 p.m., ABC (Craig Bolerjack - play-by-play, Joel Klatt - analyst, Petros Papadakis - analyst)
Line: +10 West Virginia

While this season hasn't gone exactly as planned with West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) dropping four games in a row, the Mountaineers will have a major opportunity to get back on track Saturday night inside Mountaineer Field against a storied No. 12/13 Oklahoma (7-2, 5-1) program.

But the Mountaineers will more than have its work cut out for them if they want to spring an upset and secure bowl eligibility.

Oklahoma is more of the most successful programs in college football history, and success has only continued during head coach Bob Stoops' 14-year tenure.

Over that time frame, Stoops has won over 80-percent of both his overall (146-36) and Big 12 Conference games (96-23) while leading the nation is average wins per season with 10.7.

Stoops has only matched up against West Virginia once in the 2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, where interim head coach Bill Stewart led the Mountaineers to a victory.

The Sooners offense is led by senior quarterback Landry Jones who's completed 66-percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, while throwing to a talented group of wide receivers led by junior wide receiver Kenny Stills, who leads the team with 54 catches for 682 yards and six scores.

The Sooners also have a stable of talented running backs led by Damien Williams, striking a balance for the unit that ranks 13th nationally in scoring, 15th in passing yards and 46th in rushing.

After serving as Arizona's head coach, Mike Stoops returned to the sidelines as the Sooners defensive coordinator this season and it's immediately paying dividends as the unit ranks No. 20 in the nation. In total the Sooners are only allowing 325.2 yards per game, ranking 24th in the country, while currently sitting at eighth in the FBS in pass defense giving up only 170.2 yards per contest and a total of only three touchdowns on the entire season.

That will pit a matchup of strength on strength with the Mountaineers high flying passing attack against the stingy Sooners secondary.

Oklahoma is very sound in the area of special teams, as kicker Michael Hunnicutt has connected on 10 of his 11 field goal attempts, while Tress Way has averaged 42.7 per punt. The return teams are equally as impressive, as Justin Brown is currently fifth in the nation in punt returns and Brennan Clay ranks 18th with an average of 27.8 per return.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has previously matched up with the Sooners on a number of occasions including with both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State when he served as an assistant coach.

The game is set for 7 p.m.

West Virginia Depth Chart:


QB - 12 Geno Smith, 14 Paul Millard, 7 Ford Childress
RB (A) - 13 Andrew Buie, 29 Dustin Garrison
FB (B) - 32 Ryan Clarke, 88 Cody Clay, 30 Donovan Miles
WR (X) - 5 Ivan McCartney, 3 Stedman Bailey
WR (Z) - 81 J.D. Woods, 85 Devonte Robinson
IR (H) -10 Jordan Thompson, 2 Travares Copeland
IR (Y) - 1 Tavon Austin, 10 Jordan Thompson
LT - 67 Quinton Spain, 62 Curtis Feigt
LG - 77 Josh Jenkins, 67 Quinton Spain
C - 74 Joe Madsen, 60 John Bassler
RG - 57 Jeff Braun, 76 Pat Eger
RT - 62 Curtis Feigt, 79 Nick Kindler


DT - 99 Jorge Wright, 96 Korey Harris
NT - 90 Shaq Rowell, 95 Christian Brown
DE - 98 Will Clarke, 93 Kyle Rose
BUCK - 4 Josh Francis, 36 Shaq Petteway
STAR - 28 Terence Garvin, 37 Wes Tonkery
WILL - 33 Jared Barber, 47 Doug Rigg
SAM - 31 Isaiah Bruce, 35 Nick Kwiatkoski
FCB - 34 Ishmael Banks, 23 Brodrick Jenkins
FS - 8 Karl Joseph, 34 Ishmael Banks
BS - 24 Cecil Level, 25 Darwin Cook
BCB - 6 Pat Miller, 7 Nana Kyeremeh


PK - 40 Tyler Bitancurt
P - 44 Corey Smith
KO - 44 Corey Smith
LS -87 John DePalma, 86 Jerry Cooper
H - 48 Michael Molinari
PR - 1 Tavon Austin, 10 Jordan Thompson
KR - 1 Tavon Austin, 10 Jordan Thompson

Thirteen true freshmen saw action in games this season: DL Christian Brown, LB Austin Copeland, WR Travares Copeland, LS John DePalma, S K.J. Dillon, DL Korey Harris, LB Garrett Hope, S Karl Joseph, DL Eric Kinsey, CB Nana Kyeremeh, WR Devonte Robinson, CB Ricky Rumph and WR Jordan Thompson. In all 21 first-time players saw action with LB Isaiah Bruce, WR Dante Campbell, FB Cody Clay, LS Jerry Cooper, LB Dozie Ezemma, OL Russell Haughton-James, OL Brandon Jackson, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, WR K.J. Myers, DL Kyle Rose and CB Ishmail Showell.

Fourteen Mountaineers have earned their first career start this season: Tyler Anderson (BUCK), Ishmael Banks (CB), Isaiah Bruce (LB), Dante Campbell (WR), Cody Clay (FB), Travares Copeland (WR), Karl Joseph (FS), Nick Kindler (OT), Nana Kyeremeh (CB), Cecil Level (S), Shaq Rowell (DL) and Jordan Thompson (WR).

Notable changes:

Stedman Bailey is now back atop the depth chart at the X outside receiver position, with Ryan Nehlen now listed as the backup after the departure of Ivan McCartney.

Connor Arila takes over for Travares Copeland as the backup at the H inside wide receiver spot after Travares Copeland left the team last week.

Devonte Robinson is now listed as the backup behind J.D. Woods at the Z outside wide receiver position.

Injuries: Travis Bell, Avery Williams and Jewone Snow are out for the season.

Points to click:

Execute on all three phases of the game - We haven't seen the Mountaineer football team play a complete game since defeated Texas back over a month ago. Since that point there have been games where no unit, be it the offensive, defensive or special teams has played particularly well. Such is the case in the Texas Tech and Kansas State games. Or times when the offense and defense would improve but the special teams would drop the ball……..literally. Even when WVU ran their record to 5-0 you would see the struggles on defense that has plagued the team this year. The past few weeks have been a refreshing change but all the units are going to have to put in a full game together for the Mountaineers to beat a team of the quality that Oklahoma is.

Coach Stewart isn't walking through those doors - It doesn't feel like it was 6 seasons ago that the late Mountaineer coach Bill Stewart and his staff of Rich Rod left over's and graduate assistants rallied a stunned program to an almost unbelievable victory over one of the best teams in college football that year in Oklahoma. There isn't a player on the roster who felt the emotion and passion of Bill Stewart's famous Fiesta Bowl pregame speech. The 2012 version of the Mountaineers are going to need to dig deep inside and find their "Leave No Doubt" moment. This Mountaineer team could have mailed this season up after being destroyed in back to back weeks by Texas Tech and Kansas State……..but they didn't. They came to play against TCU, a sign most WVU fans can build on. Even after a heartbreaking defeat these guys could have just let Oklahoma State walk all over them. But once again they didn't. So standing in front of this talented group of Mountaineers stands just one question. Are they going to just show up or are they going to leave no doubt?

Spotting points/Playing from behind - The Mountaineers are not going to be able to play from behind all night against a team as talented as Oklahoma. As we have seen the past few weeks WVU cannot keep digging themselves out of a hole. WVU needs to dictate the tempo of the game, force Oklahoma to play a style they aren't comfortable with. No team wants to play from behind and WVU has the offense to get back into most any game but it's become obvious that the burden of trying to fight back all game is wearing the offense down. WVU will need to score first and never let up.

Establish a running game. West Virginia will face one of its biggest challenges to date with the Oklahoma defense and head coach Dana Holgorsen has made it clear that the Mountaineers will focus on running the football to provide a balance for the offense. If West Virginia can't establish the run, it will make matters much more difficult going against a defense that has allowed only three touchdown passes on the entire season. The Mountaineers can't afford to be one dimensional.

Win matchups. It's been talked about all week due to the style of defense Oklahoma runs; there will be one-on-one matchups all across the field both in the secondary and up front. And if the Mountaineers want to move the football and come out with a victory, they will need to do just that.

Turnovers. Often a determining factor in football games, this one will be no different. On defense West Virginia needs to continue to swarm to the football and force turnovers, while offensively the Mountaineers need to protect the ball and avoid giving Oklahoma any free points.

Special teams. As was evident in last weekend's matchup against Oklahoma State, special teams can easily decide a football game. The Mountaineers committed what head coach Dana Holgorsen referred to as "junior high mistakes," letting the ball bounce off players on return teams and allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown, and those mistakes can't happen if West Virginia wants to beat Oklahoma.

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