=== West Virginia tries to right ship in bout with No. 13 Oklahoma ===
Morgantown, WV (Sports Network) - A pair of Big 12 Conference teams seemingly
headed in opposite directions do battle on Saturday night, as the 13th-ranked
Oklahoma Sooners pay a visit to the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Oklahoma comes into this clash sporting a 7-2 overall record and a 5-1 mark in
conference. The Sooners, who are perfect 3-0 on the road this season, took
care of visiting Baylor last Saturday, 42-34, running their current winning
streak to three games. Despite only suffering the one loss against another Big
12 member, OU will need some help if it hopes to win the conference crown as
that lone league defeat came against undefeated and first-place Kansas State
(24-19) back on Sept. 22.
In addition to this bout, the Sooners still have to play rival Oklahoma State
at home next Saturday, and then close the curtain on the regular season the
following week at TCU. With last week's victory, head coach Bob Stoops moved
into second place on the school's all-time wins list with 146.
West Virginia shot out of the gate this season, riding the hot hand of one-
time Heisman hopeful quarterback Geno Smith to a 5-0 start. But since
surviving its first two Big 12 bouts against Baylor (70-63) and Texas (48-48),
the Mountaineers have lost four straight. Their most recent setback took place
last Saturday at Oklahoma State (55-34), and WVU has surrendered an average of
49.5 ppg during its current slide. Add the two high-scoring wins over the
Bears and Longhorns, and the Mountaineers have been torched for 51 ppg in
those six bouts. West Virginia is still one win away from earning bowl
eligibility, and it will have opportunity to accomplish that feat either this
week against Oklahoma, next week at Iowa State, or in the regular-season
finale at home versus Kansas.
The all-time series between these two historic programs is knotted at 2-2,
with the most recent matchup going to West Virginia in a 48-28 decision in the
2008 Fiesta Bowl.
Both of these teams are capable of lighting up the scoreboard with alarming
frequency, with the Sooners averaging 39.8 ppg and the Mountaineers an even
40.0 ppg. Defensively is where they are vastly different however, with
Oklahoma giving up just 19.6 ppg and West Virginia an embarrassing 41.4 ppg.
The Oklahoma offense is led by veteran QB Landry Jones, and he has been rock-
solid for the most part this season, throwing for 2,691 yards, 18 TDs and only
seven interceptions. Other standouts for the Sooners include RB Damien
Williams (113 carries, 687 yards, nine TDs), backup QB Blake Bell who has been
used primarily as a runner (10 rushing TDs), and WRs Kenny Stills (54
receptions, 682 yards, six TDs) and Justin Brown (41 receptions, 537 yards,
As for the OU defense, it has done a solid job against the pass (170.2 ypg),
permitting just three TDs through the air. Tony Jefferson paces the unit with
79 tackles, while Javon Harris has a team-high four interceptions.
Jones threw for 277 yards and two TDs, and Williams ran for 99 yards and a
pair of scores to help push the Sooners past Baylor last weekend. Brown led
the receiving corps with six grabs for 83 yards and a TD, while RB Brennan
Clay scored a pair of TDs, one on the ground and one through the air.
The Sooners limited Baylor to a season-low 172 passing yards, but the Bears
did manage to rumble their way to 252 yards and four TDs on the ground. Both
Harris (14 tackles) and Jefferson (11 tackles) were all over the field for OU,
which allowed BU to convert 11-of-20 third-down attempts, and did not force a
Jefferson spoke after the game about his unit's lack of big plays, and how it
has a direct impact on the flow of a game.
"We didn't cause any turnovers, and that ties into the score. We gave up some
third downs and some big plays and we can't do that. Our main thing is that we
have to get some turnovers. That's three games in a row where we've only
gotten one turnover."
The Sooners are going to need to bring their 'A-game' against a West Virginia
passing attack that features the record-setting Smith, who has thrown for more
than 3,000 yards this season with an eye-popping TD-to-INT ratio of 31-3.
Taking full advantage of their gifted gunslinger's exploits are WRs Tavon
Austin and Stedman Bailey, the two combining for a whopping 171 catches, 2,023
yards and 27 TDs. When the Mountaineers decide to keep the ball on the ground,
its RB Andrew Buie who gets the call more times than not, and he has responded
by producing 646 yards and five TDs.
As mentioned, the WVU defense has been absolutely dreadful this season,
particularly against the pass as it yields (345.2 ypg, 27 TDs) almost as much
as the offense generates (347.6 ypg, 33 TDs). Isaiah Bruce leads the team with
80 tackles, while Josh Francis has 15 TFL and has combined with Terrence
Garvin to record 8.5 sacks. Not surprisingly, the Mountaineers have come up
with only seven interceptions, and their scoring yield ranks 117th in the
country entering this week's action.
In last week's loss to Oklahoma State, Smith completed 36-of-54 passes for 364
yards and two TDs, with Bailey finishing with 14 grabs for 225 yards and a
score, and Austin hauling in 11 balls for 79 yards and a TD as well. WVU lost
a pair of fumbles and allowed three sacks.
The defense let the Mountaineers down once again, as it gave up 443 yards and
six TDs (two rushing, four passing) to the Cowboys. Pat Miller paced the unit
with six stops, all of them solo efforts, and the unit as a whole was credited
with only two sacks and one takeaway.
Despite Oklahoma's propensity for curtailing the opposition's passing attack,
Smith likes his team's chances in this one.
"It's a good opportunity for our wideouts to have some one-on-one matchups,
and it's up to me to put the ball in the right spot. It's a good opportunity
for us, and I'm looking forward to it."
11/14 11:07:57 ET
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