The West Virginia Mountaineers weren't spectacular in their season opening 24-17 win over William & Mary. I said in last week's conference preview that we wouldn't know much about WVU after their opener and it seems to have been an accurate statement. Its unknown it the lackluster performance against the Tribe was a result of vanilla game planning or if they had legitimate struggles. Coach Stoops seems to think that it was the former and honestly that's probably the most cautious approach to take.
Offensively the Mountaineers moved the ball well against William & Mary, racking up 237 yards through the air and and 172 on the ground. After struggling to put points on the board in the first half, West Virginia scored seventeen unanswered in the final thirty minutes. Quarterback Paul Millard completed nearly 63% of his passes for 237 yards and a touchdown without any interceptions. His primary target was freshman Daikiel Shorts who caught seven passes for 63 yards at an average of 9.0 yards per catch.
Transfer Charles Sims had a successful debut for the Mountaineers. He carried the ball 23 times for 120 yards and scored on an 11-yard run. West Virginia looks strong on the ground again, averaging nearly four yards per carry as a team.
"Definitely still think about last year. It was just horrible on our part. Giving up almost 800 yards on defense is ridiculous. We definitely are excited about this game." - Safety Gabe Lynn
There's no doubt that this game is a chance at a little bit of redemption for an Oklahoma defense that struggled in the game last season. Despite last week's struggles, the Mountaineers most likely will provide a stronger challenge to the Oklahoma defense that ULM did in the opener.
The point of attack for the Sooners should be right up front where OU experienced tremendous success last Saturday night and the Mountaineers had a few issues. William & Mary was able to record two quarterback sacks and make four other tackles for loss, giving them a total of six plays made in the West Virginia backfield but also had two additional quarterback hurries.
The truth about the West Virginia offense is that it is probably somewhere between what we saw on the field last season and what we saw last Saturday against William & Mary.
Defensively the Mountaineers are still a bit of a mystery. Like most of the Big Twelve, West Virginia was in need of a hefty amount of improvement. Just how much they've improved has yet to be seen in full. After surrendering 17 first half points on Saturday, they pitched a second half shutout. Sophomore linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski led the team with seven total tackles and, like William & Mary, the Mountaineers were able to make some plays in the offensive backfield as well. With a quarterback sack and two other tackles for loss, WVU had three made plays behind the line of scrimmage. They also had three other quarterback hurries.
It may be strength on strength Saturday as Oklahoma's offense goes against the West Virginia Defense. The Sooners ran for over 300 yards against Louisiana Monroe last Saturday night and the Mountaineers held William & Mary to an average of 3.3 yards per carry.
Last year's game in Morgantown was one for the ages...as far as offensive football goes, but it may have set defensive football back a decade or so. Both teams are looking to prove they're better on that side of the ball, and with both offenses retooling this year, it may be the defenses that steal the show this Saturday.