West Virginia-Oklahoma Preview
With the No. 16 Sooners focused on defensive improvement and the Mountaineers struggling to find the perfect fit at quarterback with Geno Smith gone, it seems unlikely history will repeat itself Saturday night in Norman.
Landry Jones surpassed his own team record by throwing for 554 yards while adding six touchdown passes, including the eventual winner with 24 seconds remaining, to give Oklahoma a 50-49 victory in Morgantown on Nov. 17.
The Sooners overcame a school-record 344 yards rushing from Tavon Austin and four TD passes from Smith as West Virginia finished with 778 yards of total offense, the most Oklahoma has ever allowed.
Unhappy with how their defense finished the 2012 season - allowing more than 40 points in three of the last four games - the Sooners held Louisiana-Monroe to 166 yards in a 34-0 season-opening win Saturday to post their first shutout since a 52-0 victory over Iowa State on Oct. 16, 2010.
"It worked for one day, and if we can do that 11 straight times, then I would be happy,'' defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "It's about the window. We certainly got embarrassed last year against West Virginia. I am glad we got off to a good start. It gives us confidence. We will be challenged by a much more diverse offense in West Virginia."
That offense, though, doesn't seem nearly as potent without Smith under center. Junior Paul Millard made his first career start and Wendell Smallwood scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 3:22 remaining as the Mountaineers escaped with a 24-17 win over FCS opponent William & Mary on Saturday.
Coach Dana Holgorsen said he planned to split time between Millard, who finished 19 of 25 for 237 yards and a touchdown, and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, but Trickett played only two series and went three-and-out both times.
"After Paul got going a little bit my plan was to put Clint in during the second quarter, but after two three-and-outs, I thought it was appropriate to go back to Paul," Holgorsen said. "Clint is going to continue to get a bunch of reps and he's going to continue to get better because what he's lacking is snaps in our offense. It has nothing to do with his ability and he will be able to improve on that."
West Virginia trailed by 10 points at halftime before narrowly avoiding an upset, and Holgorsen knows a similar performance won't cut it against the Sooners.
"Obviously we're going to have to show a tremendous amount of improvement on all three sides of the ball heading into Norman," Holgorsen said. "I don't care about stats, I don't care about numbers. I care about being efficient."
That essentially can describe redshirt freshman Trevor Knight after he made his first career start for Oklahoma last week. He went 11 for 28 for just 86 yards, but threw three touchdowns and one interception while also running for 103 yards.
Knight became the first Sooners quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards since Jason White ran for 117 in a win over Kansas on Oct. 13, 2001.
"I thought Trevor, being in his first start and his reads and handling the offense and communicating and running the football, was really good and strong,'' coach Bob Stoops said. "There were a lot of passes I know he can make that we didn't complete that we've got to work on.''
Knight's rushing performance came with the help of the read option the team instituted, as Stoops referred to other teams' success running that type of offense.
"At the end of the day, it's just a little bit different style,'' Stoops said. "I like what we're doing and the direction we're going. We've just got to keep building on it. That's where we're at.''
Knight will face a West Virginia defense that has allowed an average of 156.0 passing yards in four games since the loss to Oklahoma, though Holgorsen is mostly concerned about his offense being able to solve the improved Sooner defense.
"They've seemed to make some changes, unfortunately for us," Holgorsen said. "It's not surprising given what they've accomplished defensively the past couple decades. They look fast, they look good."