OU football: Sooners to face West Virginia for first time as Big 12 rivals
Evin Morrison, The Oklahoma Daily
No. 12 Oklahoma already knows what’s at stake when they go up against West Virginia this weekend.
“(The Mountaineers) are looking for a win to help turn their season around and we know that so we’re going to go there and play our best,” junior wide receiver Jalen Saunders said.
Although this week’s game originally started out during the preseason Big 12 Media Days as one of the highlighted matchups on this year’s conference menu, OU’s urgency to play the new conference member didn’t fade with West Virginia’s (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) declining record after dropping the last four consecutive games.
“I think we kind of always looked forward to this game because (WVU) is new in our conference and I’ve never played these guys,” senior quarterback Landry Jones said. “You never know what you’re going to get from defenses, so you always have to be prepared and ready to play.”
And once again, OU will be facing a defense that is less than stellar this season.
After facing the worst total defense in college football last week against Baylor only to come away with the eight-point victory, the Sooner offense now prepares to face the nation’s worst pass defense in WVU that has already given up an average 345.2 passing yards per game and 27 total passing touchdowns this season.
However, the Sooners aren’t playing the numbers game and the coaches said they plan to continue to utilize both OU’s passing and run game in order to keep a consistently, balanced offense out on the field regardless of what type of defense West Virginia brings.
“We’re still best when we run the ball, control the line of scrimmage, and then use the play action plays,” offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. “We’re not necessarily as good when we’re heavy either way and we as coaches are conscious of that.”
Although the Sooners have the weapons like Saunders, junior receiver Kenny Stills and senior receiver Justin Brown that are capable of thinning WVU’s secondary, relying on the same hands each week isn’t the only part that makes the offense dangerous according to the OU coaching staff.
“We have confidence (in the passing game) every week because we have good players but we’re still best when we’re balanced,” Norvell said. “But we don’t want the run game to get away from us because it opens a lot of things up for us.”
West Virginia has the type of defense that experienced quarterbacks like Jones thrive against; Kansas State’s quarterback Collin Klein and Texas Tech’s quarterback Seth Doege already had field days against the Mountaineers this season.
But regardless of what other teams have been able to accomplish against the Mountaineers, OU’s front line knows it will need to be on point when the Sooners roll into Morgantown this weekend.
“(WVU’s defensive line) moves around a lot and they blitz on most of their downs,” senior guard Lane Johnson said. “We have to get adjusted to the linebackers moving around and hit the different gaps. And if we can do that in practice, it will show up in the game.”