The West Virginia Football team fell at Oklahoma Saturday night behind a sputtering offensive performance.
Turnovers were the real story, as both teams managed to rack up four apiece. There was no flow to the game at all. Neither offense could muster up any rhythm, or points for that matter, as the game ended with Oklahoma on top,16-7.
It’s not that the defensive play was all that good, it’s that the offensive play was downright ugly, mostly in the passing game for both teams. The Mountaineers went with Paul Millard at quarterback for the entire game, which exposed some of his real flaws, but also showed a few positives as well. He completed 21 passes on 41 attempts for 218 yards and one interception.
Millard’s arm strength and game management weren’t all that impressive. At one point in the fourth quarter he tried to call a timeout. One problem: West Virginia didn’t have any! It cost them a delay of game penalty at a crucial moment.
This is to be expected with a young team on the road, but Millard has to know better. Many fans would like to blame head coach Dana Holgorsen for time management issues, but the reality is Millard can’t make that mistake at that time. He must take the responsibility upon himself to know the situation as West Virginia’s starting quarterback. This I think will come with time, that time has not yet come.
The one thing Holgorsen can be blamed for is allowing Millard to stay in the game. I expect that Mountaineer fans will see a good bit of backup Clint Trickett against Georgia State this coming weekend. There’s no reason for Holgorsen not to play him, and really there’s no reason not to get third string quarterback Ford Childress involved as well. Someone has to step up, and there’s only one way to find out who that will be. What better opportunity to find out than the Georgia State game.
Among the negatives from Saturday’s game include a few knucklehead special team moments. Mario Alford just flat out dropped a punt, which gave Oklahoma a short field to work with. The other boneheaded play came on a personal foul roughing the kicker penalty, which gave the Sooners a first down after the Mountaineers defense had stopped them dead in their tracks. There were just countless missed opportunities for both teams really; West Virginia just ended up on the wrong side of the final count.
Millard and the receivers never seemed to have a good feel for one another. This is to be expected with all the inexperience out there, but even so, WVU must get better in this area. Good communication may not come until late in the season if Holgorsen constantly has to rotate quarterbacks.
The final nail in the coffin came when wide receiver Kevin White fumbled. West Virginia was cruising on an impressive drive, one where Holgorsen was nailing the play calls. Then after breaking free, White put the ball on the turf without being touched. Talk about taking the air out of West Virginia’s sails, this just seemed to be a stroke of bad luck more than anything, at the worst possible time. Afterwards, it seemed so improbable that West Virginia would put one in the endzone, and they never did.
Now, on to the few positives.
The running backs are very good. Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith, and Wendell Smallwood continue to impress. Smith had West Virginia’s only score on the night, one where he broke countless tackles on his way to paydirt. I have no doubt this group will continue their positive play, as they remain the focal point of the offense, while WVU tries to figure out a go to performer at quarterback.
I’ve reserved the other positive note for the defense, and rightfully so.
Time and time again, the Mountaineer defense stepped up to the plate Saturday night. They held Oklahoma at 5 for 17 on third-down conversions and picked off quarterback Trevor Knight twice. Oklahoma’s offense was rather one dimensional, leaning on the run game over and over, which made them very predictable. Even so, the Mountaineers had an encouraging defensive performance. They did give up 316 rushing yards, but the rushing game was basically the only option Oklahoma had, because Knight was extremely inconsistent in the passing game for the second week in a row.
The Oklahoma offense controlled the ball for ten more minutes than West Virginia’s, and the WVU defense held its own very well under such constant pounding. The only touchdown Oklahoma scored came off of the Mario Alford muffed punt, which allowed them to begin from WVU’s 32 yard-line, essentially handing the Sooners points.
Oklahoma never put together a legitimate touchdown scoring drive on West Virginia, which is why the ultimate positive note goes out to the Mountaineer defense.