Mountaineers come to Norman lacking spark of recent years

October 18, 2019 ▪ By Ray Dozier

Oklahoma’s defense needs to continue the momentum from last week’s excellent performance against Texas this week because West Virginia has a history of putting up a bundle of points on the Sooners, and the Sooners have rolled up a lot of points on the Mountaineers. This year might be different from the norm, however.

No. 5 Oklahoma (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) hosts the Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2) at 11 a.m. (FOX) Saturday. OU has outscored the Mountaineers an average of 53-34 in the last five meetings. The margin is higher in Norman (51-27). Since WVU joined the league, the Sooners’ defense has held the Mountaineers under 24 points once (2013).

Although Oklahoma has won five straight in the series, many of these matchups have been seat squirmers.

This year’s West Virginia offense doesn’t have the punch it has had in recent years. Starting QB and OU transfer Austin Kendall is expected to start against his former teammates after exiting the first quarter with a chest injury against Iowa State. In six starts this season, Kendall has completed 126-of-191 passes for 1,247 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions.

The Mountaineers rank 97th nationally in scoring (24.2 ppg) and No. 114 in total offense (326.2 ypg). This is their worst output since joining the Big 12.

Besides the injury to Kendall, the Mountaineers have more players among the walking wounded and are not expected to play. The team’s fifth-leading receiver, Tevin Bush, is out for this weekend as well as cornerback Keith Washington II. Bush has requested a transfer this week. Washington leads the Mountaineers with 3 interceptions. Cornerback Hakeem Bailey will be out for the first half of Saturday’s game after being ejected for targeting against Iowa State. Linebacker VanDarius Cowan is also out with a knee injury suffered in the ISU game.

Sam James is WVU’s leading receiver with 37 receptions for 359 yards and 2 TDs. T.J. Simmons is second with 25 catches for 335 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

The running game isn’t frightening. Starting running back Kennedy McKoy (187 yards) and his backup, Leddie Brown (156 yards) are the Mountaineers’ leading rushers. The duo also has combined for only 4 touchdowns and average a combined 3.5 yards per carry.

WVU’s defense has allowed 30.3 points (No. 93) and 382.5 yards (No. 61) per game. Linebacker Josh Chandler is the top tackler with 45 stops. The brother duo Darius and Dante Stills have been a nuisance on the front line. Darius has 8.5 tackles for loss while little brother, Dante, has 6.5. Both have 4 sacks apiece.

The Mountaineers battled Iowa State to a 14-14 tie last week, but the Cyclones scored 24 points and held WVU to 44 yards in the second half en route to a 38-14 victory.

Meanwhile, the Sooners knocked off No. 11 Texas, 34-27, in Dallas. Cee Dee Lamb earned Big 12 Conference, and national offensive honors with 10 catches for 171 and 3 TDS. Jalen Hurts threw for 235 yards with all 3 of his TDs went to Lamb.

Oklahoma held a 10-3 halftime advantage then both teams exploded for 48 points in the second half. Texas tied the game at 10-all with a 93-yard drive in the third quarter. The Sooners answered with a 75-yard march in three plays, which ended with a flea-flicker to Lamb for 51 yards. Lamb caught the pass at the UT 30 and eluded five Longhorns en route to the end zone.

Gabe Brkic soon kicked 34-yard field goal to put OU up 20-10. The Steers would not give up, but each time they scored, Oklahoma retaliated. Lamb had another incredible touchdown when he hauled in Hurts’ pass at the Texas 10, slipped through the hands of two UT defenders, and tip- toed down the sideline for the final 5 yards to the end zone.

OU’s D harassed Texas QB Sam Ehlinger all day, allowing him -9 yards with the help of 9 sacks, equaling a school record (Nebraska, 2005). Eight Sooners had at least one sack with Neville Gallimore’s two drops leading the way. The defense also had 14 stops behind the line for -62 yards. Oklahoma’s defense held the Steers to 310 yards, 149 below UT’s average heading into the game.

LB Kenneth Murray was named the Big 12’s Defensive POW as he also logged 5 solo tackles two tackles for loss and a sack.

The Sooners’ defense continues to show significant progress compared to recent years. The D has allowed 20.3 ppg (No. 31) and 340.3 ypg (No. 41). Both averages are the best defensive performance in a decade (14.5 ppg and 272.6 ypg in 2009).

Although the Mountaineers have numerous players out with injuries, the Sooners cannot afford to lose focus.

Although earning the league’s Newcomer of the Week honor for the third time this year, Hurts was a little off his game last week, tossing 8 incompletions in 26 passes. He also threw one interception on a wrong decision, plus he fumbled inside the UT 10. The fumble was caused by a UT player’s helmet coming in contact with Hurts’ elbow. Both turnovers left a possible 14 points off the board for the Sooners. Still, he rushed for 131 yards on 17 carries and scored a TD. Hurts should be back on his game this weekend and hopefully get some rest in the second half of a blowout.

The Stills brothers are likely to cause problems for Hurts, so Oklahoma’s O-line must be on its toes to keep the duo out of the backfield. The Sooners' defense will turn up the heat on Kendall and the Mountaineers’ offense. Turnovers, which have been the emphasis of OU defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch, have been lacking the last couple of games. Look for that to change Saturday.

Sooners 55, Mountaineers 14.

Fast Facts

  • OU leads the series 9-2, including 7 consecutive victories.
  • OU is 79-21-4 on homecoming, including 4 straight wins.
  • OU is favored by 33.5.
  • Lincoln Riley’s record: 30-4 (.882) overall; 2-0 vs. WVU; 15-1 at home; 23-1 vs. unranked opponents; 20-2 vs. conference foes.
  • WVU coach Matt Wells is 38-19 (.667) overall; 3-3 at WVU.
  • Since neutral games began in Dallas in 1929, OU is 71-15-4 in games played following the Texas game; 35-4 if the Sooners beat the Longhorns.
  • OU is 14-5 in games played on October 19.
  • WVU is 11-5 in games played on October 19.

Articles by Ray Dozier