After delivering a record-breaking performance for futility against the Mountaineers in 2012, Oklahoma's defense showed they're taking the right steps towards improvement in Norman on Saturday night. With the offense stalling and sputtering for most of the night, it was the Sooner defense that paved the way to a 16-7 victory over the Mountaineers. Forcing four turnovers and coming up with a big stop on fourth down, the defense certainly bailed out the offense which is a complete one-eighty from the game in Morgantown last year.
It wasn't a flawless performance though. West Virginia took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 75-yard touchdown run by Dreamius Smith, but Oklahoma would then put the brakes on any other Mountaineer scoring after that. Over the course of their next ten possessions West Virginia would punt six times, turn the ball over four times and, most importantly, fail to capitalize of Oklahoma's offensive mistakes.
"Especially in this game last year, offense bailed us out. Coming into this game, we had a lot of motivation after last year. We definitely want to prove everybody wrong. Everybody was counting the defense out earlier, so it definitely felt good to get that win." - Safety Gabe Lynn
After redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight threw interceptions on back-to-back offensive possessions, the Oklahoma defense was able to snuff out any kind of Mountaineer rally and force a West Virginia turnover instead. Safety Gabe Lynn stepped in front of a Paul Millard pass at the Oklahoma 37 and then recovered a fumble at the Oklahoma 14 and returned it 27 yards. It was certainly a bend-but-don't-break night for the Sooner defense where the only stat that mattered was the amount of points on the board.
Where this game was won for Oklahoma and lost for West Virginia was on third down where the Sooners held the Mountaineers to a 3-for-13 conversion rate. Where the WVU offense experienced a limited amount of success through the game, the OU defensive players were absolute drive killers.
"They came out and played the defense we saw on film last week and it's hard. They played well, they played hard. We just didn't get enough plays. We just didn't make plays." - West Virginia quarterback Paul Millard
Defensive Position Grades
Defensive Line: B- | Both Charles Tapper and Jodan Phillips were able to make some plays in the backfield but they were also handled by a quick WVU defensive line at times. The end result was still a strong performance by the Sooners up front but it could have been better.
Linebackers: B+ | Guilty of sloppy tackling on a few occasions, the linebackers were still able to flow to the ball aggressively and disrupt several plays. Corey Nelson was solid in pass coverage and placed second on the team in total tackles at 7. After the absence of the Oklahoma linebacking corps in 2012, even a "B" performance becomes a sight for sore eyes.
Secondary: A | I don't see how you can grade it any other way. I know they didn't deliver a perfect performance but they were pretty dang good. Lynn had the interception and fumble recovers, Quentin Hayes led the team in tackles and had a forced fumble while Kass Everett had a forced fumble and the team's only quarterback sack. That makes for a really strong night for Oklahoma's secondary.
Defensive Player of the Game
Safety Gabe Lynn for the turnovers we already mentioned
"Gabe (Lynn) has really worked hard. He's a very versatile player. He does a lot of things well. And I think we finally got the right position for him where he's really comfortable. He's in a position to make plays. I'm really pleased with how Gabe's played." - Mike Stoops