Game Preview: WVU vs. Oklahoma
Series: OU 3-2
Last meeting: 2012 WVU 49, OU 50
Television: 7 p.m. E.T., FOX Sports (Gus Johnson play-by-play, Charles Davis analysis, Kristina Peak sideline)
Line: +20.5 West Virginia
After a closer than expected season opener against FCS opponent William & Mary, thing won't get any easier for West Virginia when the Mountaineers travel to Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for a nationally televised matchup against the Sooners at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Mountaineers will enter Norman to take on Big 12 Conference opponent Oklahoma as the biggest underdog it's been since 2003 when West Virginia was given 22 points against Miami.
It will be the first time that West Virginia has played at Oklahoma since the Mountaineers 41-27 victory over the Sooners in 1982, and the current roster is hoping to capture some of that magic. But it won't be easy, as Oklahoma has amassed an 82-5 record at home under head Coach Bob Stoops, which ranks second nationally since he took over the program in 1999, and a 47-3 mark in the conference.
Stoops is entering his 15th season atop the Sooners football program and is second all-time in victories at Oklahoma with 150, trailing only Barry Switzer's 157 wins for most all-time. Stoops has guided the Sooners to four appearances in the national championship game, including claiming college football's crown in 2000. Out of his 14 bowl appearances, eight have been BCS games.
Stoops has previously faced West Virginia twice in his career, first in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl where the Mountaineers defeated Oklahoma 48-28 and in last season's inaugural Big 12 Conference matchup, a 50-49 victory in Morgantown where Tavon Austin exploded for a conference record 572 all-purpose yards.
"We had a barn burner a year ago, so our guys understand the challenge of facing these guys," Stoops said. "So they've only had one game as well, but it's a little different having a conference game this early in the season."
But this season is a much different for both teams. So much so that earlier this week head coach Dana Holgorsen said that the coaching staff won't even watch the film from a season ago in preparation for the primetime matchup.
"Offensively, they're not the thrilling team that they have been the last several years. They're going to run the ball. They've got capable backs, quality receivers and big fullbacks," Holgorsen said.
Gone from Oklahoma is the wide open passing attack, with a shift to more of a run-based scheme, ditto for the Mountaineers.
"Dana doesn't change his system much, in the end of the day which he shouldn't they do an excellent job," Stoops said. "Maybe a little more emphasis on running the football but again I know Dana likes to run the football and ran it on us a year ago."
No. 16 Oklahoma is coming off an impressive 34-0 victory over Louisiana Monroe, where the Sooners defense rebounded after an uncharacteristic season a year ago to hold the Warhawks to 166-yards of total offense with their new aggressive defensive style. Expect the Sooners to be chomping at the bit after last season's performance against the Mountaineers and it will be up to the ground attack and winning battles on the outside to move the football.
"They addressed a lot of things in the offseason. I don't think they liked how they ended the year last year, just like we didn't. Defensively, they're not going to sit on their heels. They're going to attack. They're going to apply pressure and play man coverage, which they're good at," Holgorsen said.
After the graduation of Landry Jones, Oklahoma anointed redshirt freshman Trevor Knight as his heir apparent after a battle with Blake Bell throughout training camp. In his first start, Knight accounted for 189 yards and three touchdowns, including 103 yards on the ground. He proved most effective rushing the football, completing only 11 of his 28 attempts through the air, but three of those went for scores.
"He did some things well, obviously with his legs. Great confidence in how he does throw the football and once he settles down and I believe gets more comfortable with the situation I expect him to throw the ball in a better way," Stoops said. "He's got a great arm."
After review of the tape, Holgorsen agreed with his counter part's assessment.
"He's a talented quarterback, and he's going to get better and better. They're going to rely on him to make plays in the run and passing games. Hopefully he doesn't get things figured out this week," he said.
The Sooners will use a stable of running backs led by senior Damien Williams and feature one of the most versatile fullbacks in the country in fellow senior Trey Millard. They also return several wide receivers from last season's squad.
As for the Mountaineers, they will look to show improvement on all three sides of the ball after a close call a weekend ago as well as continue to develop many of the new faces on both sides of the ball.
"Our goal is to win one game a week. That's all we said last week. We want to improve on all three sides of the ball. When I address the team today, I'm going to describe what they're getting into and make sure they're prepared to travel, line up and win the game," Holgorsen said.
West Virginia Depth Chart:
QB - 14 Paul Millard (Jr) or 9 Clint Trickett (r-Jr), 7 Ford Childress (r-Fr)
FB (A) - 88 Cody Clay (r-So), 42 Garrett Hope (So)
RB (B) - 3 Charles Sims (r-Sr), 4 Wendell Smallwood (Fr), 2 Dreamius Smith (Jr), 29 Dustin Garrison (Jr)
WR (X) - 5 Ivan McCartney (Sr), 12 Ronald Carswell (r-So)
WR (Z) - 19 K.J. Myers (r-So), 11 Kevin White (Jr)
IR (Y) - 6 Daikiel Shorts (Fr), 82 Devonte Mathis (r-Fr)
LT - 67 Quinton Spain (r-Jr), 79 Nick Kindler (r-Sr)
LG - 78 Marquis Lucas (r-So) or 76 Pat Eger (r-Sr)
C - 65 Tyler Orlosky (r-Fr), 69 Tony Matteo (r-Fr)
RG - 64 Mark Glowinski (r-Jr), 73 Russell Haugton-James (r-So)
RT - 62 Curtis Feigt (r-Sr), 77 Marcell Lazard (Fr)
DT - 98 Will Clarke (r-Sr), 97 Noble Nwachukwu (r-Fr) or 93 Kyle Rose (r-So)
NT - 90 Shaq Rowell (r-Sr), 95 Christian Brown (So)
DE - 45 Eric Kinsey (So), 20 Dontrill Hyman (Jr) or 93 Kyle Rose (r-So)
BUCK - 32 Brandon Golson (Jr), 53 Tyler Anderson (r-Sr)
SPUR - 31 Isaiah Bruce (r-So), 51 Marvin Gross (Fr)
WILL - 35 Nick Kwiatkoski (r-So), 53 Tyler Anderson (r-Sr)
SAM - 33 Jared Barber (Jr) and 47 Doug Rigg (Sr), 11 Sean Walters (r-Fr)
FCB - 34 Ishmael Banks (r-Jr), 7 Daryl Worley (Fr)
FS - 8 Karl Joseph (So), 9 K.J. Dillon (So.)
BS - 25 Darwin Cook (r-Sr), 41 Ricky Rumph (So)
BCB - 26 Travis Bell (r-Jr), 22 Avery Williams (r-So)
PK - 8 Josh Lambert (r-Fr)
P - 91 Nick O'Toole (So)
KO - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Jr)
LS -87 John DePalma (So)
H - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Jr)
PR - 12 Ronald Carswell (So), 10 Jordan Thompson (So)
KR - 3 Charles Sims (r-Sr), 4 Wendell Smallwood (Fr)
Ten Mountaineers earned their first career starts in the season opener with Mark Glowinski (RG), Brandon Golson (BUCK), Marquis Lucas (LG), Paul Millard (QB), KJ Myers (WR), Tyler Orlosky (C), Charles Sims (RB), Dreamius Smith (RB), Josh Lambert (K), Nick O'Toole (P).
In total, 20 Mountaineers saw their first game action this past Saturday including Mario Alford (IWR), Michael Calicchio (OL), Ronald Carswell (WR), Brandon Golson (BUCK), Mark Glowinski (RG), Jarrod Harper (S), Dontrill Hyman (DE), Josh Lambert (K), Devonte Mathis (WR), Carlton Nash (CB), Brandon Napoleon (CB), Noble Nwachukwu (DE), Tyler Orlosky (C), Nick O'Toole (P), Charles Sims (RB), Wendell Smallwood (RB), Daikiel Shorts (WR), Dreamius Smith (RB), Clint Trickett (QB), Sean Walters (LB) and Daryl Worley (CB).
Injuries: Junior college transfer Kevin White's status remains up in the air with a foot injury. Redshirt senior and back up BUCK linebacker Dozie Ezemma broke his lower leg and foot against William & Mary and will miss the remainder of the season. West Virginia also will be without junior linebacker Shaq Petteway who will miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Sophomore cornerback Nana Kyeremeh also will miss the entirety of the season with a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Adam Pankey is still recovering from a torn ACL and also won't be available for the game.
Redshirts: Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has already announced that he plans to redshirt the following players this season: junior running back Andrew Buie, junior offensive lineman Stone Underwood, junior outside linebacker d'Vante Henry, freshman wide receiver Shelton Gibson, freshmen linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton, freshman fullback Elijah Wellman, freshman safety Isaac McDonald, freshman wide receiver Jacky Marcellus, freshman safety Malik Greaves, freshman offensive lineman Marcell Lazard, freshman offensive lineman Tyler Tezeno and freshman offensive lineman Grant Lingafelter.
Points to click:
* Win the battle of the trenches (WVU OL vs. OU DL) - WVU's offensive line has got to move the smaller and quicker Oklahoma defensive line. Oklahoma's defense isn't going to sell out against the run like William and Mary so West Virginia is going to get an opportunity to win some one on one battles along the line and into Oklahoma's second level. Oklahoma held University of Lousiana-Monre to 1.7 yards per carry and the Mountaineers are going to have a hard time sustaining drives if they can't at least double that production.
Along with winning the line of scrimmage the offensive line is going to have to keep the WVU quarterbacks jersey clean Saturday night if they want to leave Norman with a victory. The Mountaineer line struggled at times to stop the smaller, quicker line of W&M and even if they are having some success leaning on Oklahoma's defensive line, they will need to be active in pass coverage to prevent a big sack or worse.
* Don't force your inexperienced quarterback to win the game, make theirs. (OU QB/OL vs. WVU DL) - This could be a point for both teams but the Mountaineers need to keep the game within reach and not have to depend on the arm of either Paul Millard or Clint Tricket to get them out of a large deficit. Instead WVU will need for Oklahoma's freshman signal caller Trevor Knight to be the man forced to make the big throws. If the Mountaineers can ratchet up the pressure and force Oklahoma into a one dimensional attack then they will be forcing Oklahoma into what should be a weakness, at least a weakness this early in the season.
* S.O.S. (Same Old Stuff) - Your usual coach speak will be, win the field position battle (Oklahoma's three touchdowns in the third quarter were on drives of 47 yards or less), minimize your mistakes by playing smart (no penalties) and keep control of the football (no turnovers). West Virginia will need to convert on 3rd down while keep Oklahoma's offense off the field when given the opportunity to get them off.
* Stopping the option (WVU LB's vs. OU's QB/RB) - Oklahoma had no problem running the pistol option out of the diamond formation. Last season and during periods of the game against W&M, WVU's linebackers played out of position or made incorrect reads on the play. There will be no room for mistakes with a team that will try to use their speed at running back and quarterback to their advantage. It will be a difficult task as the multifaceted OU offense will attack the WVU 3-4 with many different options. West Virginia's front seven will have to play smart to stop the option and short passing game, including the screen game which is another style of attack that Oklahoma has been very successful with over the years under Bob Stoops.
* Win one-on-one matchups - Oklahoma has completely revamped their defense to a more aggressive style that will put the Mountaineers in situations where they will need to win one-on-one matchups outside. Expect West Virginia to run the football but man coverage comes down to beating the opponent lined up in front of you and with the Sooners fully expecting the Mountaineers to move the ball on the ground, expect more people in the box leaving the wide receivers the opportunity to make plays down the field.