The Oklahoma Sooners will face the West Virginia Football team fresh off an impressive 34-0 shutout victory against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.
The Oklahoma defense looked extremely athletic and fast; while the offense ran the ball with plenty of success. New starting quarterback Trevor Knight rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries and threw for three touchdowns to guide No.16 Oklahoma.
The Sooners have won three of the previous five matchups with West Virginia, including a back and forth 50-49 decision last season in the first meeting between the two teams as conference rivals.
Oklahoma’s offense rolled up 429 total yards against UL-Monroe, most of it gained on the ground (305 yards). West Virginia had 409 yards of total offense against William & Mary. However, the Mountaineers did it with a more balanced attack, 237 yards through the air and 172 on the ground.
The real difference between the two teams is the passing game. Trevor Knight looked like a very elusive runner as Oklahoma used some of their new offense to run all over the Warhawks. They’ve changed from a spread passing attack to more of a speed option running team in order to utilize Knight’s skills more effectively.
While this is a smart move by Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, it may leave the door open for the WVU defense to finally step up and stop somebody. The move to more of a spread rushing attack makes the Sooners more predictable. The Mountaineers can focus on stopping the run and force inexperienced quarterback Trevor Knight to beat them through the air, which I’m not sure he’s capable of doing this early in his career.
A review of the Sooners game tape against UL-Monroe reveals a young quarterback that may very well run all over the Mountaineers, but it also shows a young man that needs a good bit of work in the passing game. Knight repeatedly had happy feet while dropping back to pass in his first game. His throws were inaccurate and all over the place.
He was an abysmal 11 for 28 on his passing attempts. One very important key to note, which the Mountaineers could use to equalize this game, is Trevor Knight’s eye and head movement. A closer examination of the UL-Monroe game tape shows that on nearly every single pass play Knight’s eyes never left the first receiver in his progression. Rarely did he look for a second option and it showed in his final numbers.
If WVU’s defense can hold the run game in check, it will force Oklahoma to go to the air, which certainly isn’t their bread and butter at this point. The Mountaineers definitely will have a chance to win the game if they can get Knight to make some mistakes in the passing game.
Another key for WVU is to create a pass rush. Any pass rush would be better than what Mountaineer fans have been used to over the past year or so. West Virginia needs to put pressure on Knight at all times. If he had happy feet in the pocket against UL-Monroe, he won’t be much better through the air if WVU pressures him early and often. The defensive coaches for West Virginia will try to confuse Knight, if he can’t figure out where the blitzes are coming from, he could be easily rattled.
West Virginia went with an extremely vanilla offense against William & Mary. I doubt head coach Dana Holgorsen will rely on the ground game quite as much this time around. They must put the ball in the air and throw over the top to beat Oklahoma. The Sooners have an extremely talented defensive front and WVU can’t expect to just pound the ball at them and come away with a victory, so they’ll have to mix the pass and run a bit more in order to be successful on Saturday night.
I was pleasantly surprised with WVU quarterback Paul Millard. He made very few mistakes in the passing game and when everything around him broke down he threw the ball away most times. West Virginia has some threats on the outside, Millard will need to distribute the ball to them and limit his mistakes. If he can, there’s no reason WVU won’t be in this game.
The Oklahoma score was rather deceiving because the offense only truly scored two touchdowns in the game against UL-Monroe. The others were aided by a punt return and a defensive turnover, which gave the Sooners a short field to work with.
Oklahoma comes into the game as nearly three touchdown favorites. The Mountaineers have been written off; no one expects them to pull this one out with an inexperienced quarterback and a suspect defense.
This is just the type of game WVU’s program usually thrives upon, with their backs against the wall, I expect the Mountaineers will hang around long enough for things to get interesting.
WVU has won 98 of its last 131 regular-season games, and has the 14th-best record in the FBS over the last eight years.
The keys for them are to contain Oklahoma’s ground game and for the offense not to turn the ball over, if these two things happen, the game will be closer than the experts think.