For a team that touted as one of the best in the country and another that was trying to find its way after losing its star quarterback to the NFL Draft, it seemed no one wanted to win the game between Oklahoma and West Virginia.
The 16-7 win by the Sooners was more about holding onto a lead although a strong running game was the catalyst that helped Bob Stoops and his team remain in the hunt for a national title.
Yes, it may seem to be an odd statement this early in the season, but a loss like this one to West Virginia, a team that lost Geno Smith and Tavon Austin to the draft would have been critical of the Sooners having any chance of playing for a national title.
But honestly, at the midway point of the third quarter of the game between Oklahoma and West Virginia, I found myself asking, “What is Bob Stoops thinking?”
For a team that had been so successful at running the football most of the night, throwing passes seemed a bit off the beaten path and certainly not part of the game plan that would lead to a win for the Sooners. And although they were only leading 13-7 at the time, the Sooners’ ground game looked like it was in command of this contest.
The West Virginia offense will come together more and more as the season progresses. Had this been a game played five or six games into the season the score and outcome could be a lot different.
Here is the good, the bad and certainly the ugly in this contest.
A strong running game by the Sooners
The Sooners showed signs of Billy Simms and the 1970s. An attack that saw the team earned 316 yards on the night led by Brennan Clay, who had 170 yards by himself, controlled this game from the start.
The Sooners were also able to overcome a quarterback change in the fourth quarter that helped seal the win.
According to ESPN.com, “The No. 16 Sooners (2-0, 1-0 Big 12) scored the game's final 16 points after trailing 7-0 in the first quarter. Freshman quarterback Trevor Knight threw a pair of third-quarter interceptions, leading to junior Blake Bell taking over in the fourth quarter.”
West Virginia was out of timeouts with 4:32 left in the third quarter…. Ouch. There seemed to be a lack of play calling control throughout the majority of the third quarter. And when it looked like Oklahoma would take over, The Mountaineers would fight back and tease the crowd.
A punt out of their own end zone with 2:08 left in the third gave Oklahoma possession on the 38 yard line, which had they scored could have put the game away quicker than it eventually was sealed.
It could have been a lot worse.
Paul Millard was 21-of-42 passing for 218 yards for the Mountaineers (1-1, 0-1), whose lone score came on a 75-yard touchdown run by Dreamius Smith in the first quarter. West Virginia could not muster a real attack after that. While the team had 179 yards on the ground, and over seven yards a carry, it should have been the onus to make things happen more readily.
It did not. Oklahoma made adjustments, while the Mountaineers did not.
Also, Oklahoma controlled the game for almost 10 minutes longer than West Virginia. Total dominance but you would not know it by the final score.