Howdy, y'all! I'm doing some covering for DeCray, who is on vacation. I'm tasked with the troublesome post of what to expect from the Sooners on D versus the Mountaineers. Thanks, DeCray, and I hope you get a sunburn.
1) Expect some disappointment.
Look, let me get this out of the way first. I think we've got some damned fine players and coaches when it comes to defense. I think Zack Sanchez will have a better starting salary when he graduates than I did. I think Dom Alexander and Mr. Bond (007) play some hella smart football, and bring down ball carriers. And as good as Eric Striker is, I think he's still getting better. And that's a scary thought.
That said, on the other side of the chessboard sits Mr. Holgerson. To put it in caveman talk: him good. Him smart. Him good yard-making-happener.
You remember that time, a little while back, when Wide Receiver (!) Tavon Austin ran for forever and a day against our Sooners? Oh, you do? That time Landry had the game of his life and we barely walked away with a win that felt like a loss? WVU has tricksy Hobbit things up their sleeve, whether they're playing with a lead or playing from behind. I ain't Nostradamus, but I'm figuring there will be a time or two that we'll be caught out of position, and the Mountaineers will score some points. Before the "Fire Mike Stoops" flags fly, let's all just admit to ourselves that they've got some darned fine players led by a darned fine coach. Scoring points is where this man eats. (But stick around until point #3, won't you?)
Player to be scared of: WR Shelton Gibson is averaging more than 100 yards per game.
Again, I'm not a psychic. But if I were, I would bet my Powerball winnings on this game being decided by turnovers. Specifically, who gets them and who doesn't. The Sooners D put up a masterpiece against Tennessee -- think about it, we had more points in the fourth quarter of that game than they had yards. You honestly can't ask for a better performance than that.
Against our first few opponents, we've been thisclose to several turnovers, each of which would have changed the complexion of the game. But thisclose is the kind of thing that Texas fans are whining about nowadays -- we either get them or we don't, plain and simple. Sanchez needs to pick that ball. Parker needs to pick that ball. Tapper needs to scoop that fumble. Whatever. Thisclose will make us this close to beating or losing to West Virginia.
Player to watch: My money would be on Sanchez to get the offense back onto the field.
3) Expect some fight.
Football games work in funny ways. In the first quarter, sometimes you're up 14-0, sometimes the bad guys are up 14-0. In either case, the defense persisting is the important part. Against Baylor and Clemson last year, our guys seemed to give up. Last year was last year.
If you think I've been a Negative Nancy to this point, think again -- I think our defense is going to allow some scores, but I also think they will win this game.
Our linebacker corps is pretty special. You remember Tom Wort? Yeah, these guys make me not remember him, either.Our D-Line has been consistently getting penetration and harassing the quarterback already this year, and they're fresh off a bye week.The Tulsa game happened. And that's a good thing. We've got solid *leaders* at each level of the defense. Expect that they'll be hungry for betterment, and demanding themselves and their cohorts to be better than they showed against the Golden Hurricane.
Player to be worried about: Jordan Thomas. Easy choice, I know, but will he use his suspension against Tulsa as fuel or will he turn into a paper tiger? We'll see.
Bonus Round! Special teams. (Because special teams usually get folded into defense for these write-ups.)
The reason we beat Florida State in 2000 and almost lost to Tennessee in Knoxville? Field position. Plain, simple, period. Through three games this season, Austin Seibert may be Oklahoma's most valuable player. (All apologies to Mssrs. Mayfield and Shepard.)
Honestly, we haven't lived up to our potential in this area. Alex Ross is almost 20 yards behind last year's numbers in kickoff returns. Coach Bob Stoops put it plain: we need to block better for the guy. He knows how to do his job, but we've been letting him down. You think the special teams unit listened?
Player to be psyched about: No, not Ross -- whoever it will be that lays a sick block that gets Ross in space.
What do you think, Sooners fans?