As the Mountaineers prepare to come to Norman on Saturday there are still several questions looming about both the Sooners and West Virginia. While we're still trying to figure out some things with Oklahoma, we've turned to the folks over at The Smoking Musket (SBN's outstanding West Virginia site) to give us some answers on the Mountaineers. Let's welcome WVUIE97 to The Machine as he gives us his take on Saturday night.
CCM: The Mountaineers seemed to move the ball fairly well against William & Mary (409 yards) but only posted 24 points. What, if any, issues is the offense facing early in the season and how much of that could be chalked up to a vanilla game plan?
TSM: Growing pains, for lack of a better term. We're breaking in new guards and a new center. Then there's an entire new stable of running backs, new receivers, new quarterback. There's bound to be some communication problems that we haven't had to deal with over the last few seasons as the personnel was littered with starters over several seasons. There may have been somewhat of a vanilla game plan, but with all of this new personnel, the overall identity has yet to be established. We certainly look to be running the ball more than in the past two years with Holgorsen, but he's still wants to throw the ball a bunch too. Whether or not we'll see that this week remains to be seen.
CCM: After seeing Florida State transfer Clint Trickett get just two passing attempts last Saturday, is it safe to assume that the quarterback position is set for the season with Paul Millard taking the reigns?
TSM: Evidently not. Holgorsen has stated that while Millard will start this Saturday, Trickett will continue to be evaluated in practice and will get some game snaps. There are many who believe that Millard, due to his familiarity with the offense, is a short term solution, but Trickett will end up winning the job long term in a couple of weeks. Millard certainly looked more comfortable Saturday. He may be more of the game manager, but it's only been one week.
CCM: How important was the transfer of Charles Sims to West Virginia?
TSM: In a time when the WVU offense is undergoing a personnel transition unlike we've faced in several years, it gives the coaches a proven talent who can absolutely be counted on. He didn't break anything big this past weekend, but he's adjusting too. His pass catching ability could even give Holgorsen another option to use in the slot in addition to catching out of the backfield. After being around only 60 or so scholarship players the last couple of years, we are finally almost back to the full limit of scholarships, by the way. It goes without saying that depth was an issue in the first year for us in the Big 12.
CCM: Defensively the Mountaineers held William & Mary to an average of 3.3 yards per carry which is pretty much the breaking point for a defense against the rush. How much has this defense improved from last season?
TSM: It's hard to tell yet, but it is encouraging so far. We actually did have a decent run defense last season, but didn't get to display it much because we couldn't defend the pass at all. The defensive line didn't create the kind of pass rush we would have liked to see. But in his presser, Holgorsen said that there were several busted assignments, especially in the 2nd quarter, when W&M did most of their damage. W&M didn't do enough passing downfield for us to get a good gauge on that yet. New coaches and techniques have us hopeful.
CCM: West Virginia pulls off the home upset if...
TSM:...Trevor Knight plays like a freshman and WVU forces him into several turnovers. The defense has to show it has improved A GREAT DEAL over what they displayed last year. Millard, Sims and the rest of the offense have to make plays quickly and often to help take the crowd out of the game. WVU can't have any special teams mistakes either. Getting WR's Kevin White and Mario Alford back and into the game making plays would certainly help as well.
CCM: Give us a prediction of how the game plays out on Saturday night.
TSM: The WVU defense plays an inspired game and is able to generate a couple of turnovers. Millard is able to distribute the ball amongst Alford, Shorts, Carswell & White once Smallwood and Sims soften up the Sooner D. Knight plays more like a freshman, but ultimately the lack of a pass rush by WVU and the depth of the Sooners proves too much. Sooners win 38-24.
We'd like to say thanks again to all the folks over at The Smoking Musket for their coverage, from a West Virginia perspective, on this game. Special thanks to WVUIE97 for taking the time to answer our questions.