Bob Stoops and his Oklahoma football team have owned West Virginia since the Mountaineers became members of the Big 12 four seasons ago, but West Virginia fans strongly believed that the Saturday night party at their house would be different.
Nov 19, 2016; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers cornerback Maurice Fleming (24) and Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver A.D. Miller (13) push each other after a play during the second quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
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It didn’t take long for the Sooners to turn West Virginia’s party plans upside down with a tidal wave of first-quarter scoring. Oklahoma stunned the Mountaineers with 21 points in the first quarter and 13 more in the second before West Virginia was able to put any points on the scoreboard.
Oklahoma’s 34-7 halftime margin was its largest in Big 12 play this season and proved to be all the Sooners needed to record their 11 consecutive win in true road games. The final margin of victory was 28 points, but it easily could have been 14 points or fewer.
The Sooners’ first touchdown came about as a result of mishandled punt by West Virginia’s Gary Jennings, which set Oklahoma up on the Mountaineers’ 34 yard line. Samaje Perine punched it in the end zone six plays later to give OU the early lead.
Twice in the opening half, West Virginia moved the ball inside the Oklahoma five-yard line, only to fumble the ball away on both occasions. The Sooners drove the length of the field for touchdowns following both turnovers, resulting in a potential 28-point swing.
The final score of 56-28 was actually misrepresentative of the way the game played out. The Sooners won big on the scoreboard, largely the result of forcing four West Virginia fumbles, two of which resulted in OU touchdowns and an interception returned for another six points.
Oklahoma possessed the ball for nearly 40 of the 60 minutes in the game, and 64 of the Sooners 79 total offensive play were running plays. Quarterback Baker Mayfield put the ball in the air only 15 times, completing nine for 169 yards. Two of those completions were for touchdowns, including one to Dede Westbrook for 75 yards and a touchdown. Westbrook now has 15 receiving TDs this season, which ties an OU school record for a single season.
Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon combined for 307 of OU’s 316 rushing yards, nearly 100 more than the Sooner’s per-game average and 150 more than West Virginia has been averaging on defense.
While the Sooners’ dynamic running-back duo was piling up yards on the ground against the West Virginia defense, though, the Mountaineers’ Justin Crawford was single-handedly putting on a show of his own, rambling for more rushing yards than OU’s collective total for the game.
Crawford ran through and around the Oklahoma defenders for 331 yards and averaged an incredible 13.8 yards every time he touched the ball.
You certainly wouldn’t have gathered it from the final score, but West Virginia outgained the Sooners in total offense for the game (579 to 485).
“Maybe in the second half, (we) might have been too conservative, but that’s okay. I think what happens when it’s going well (is) you stick with it more.” –OU head coach Bob Stoops
Even though the Sooners’ defense created three turnovers that contributed directly to 20 Oklahoma points, the inability to slow down Crawford and limit his large gains was disturbing from a rushing defense that has limited three of its last four opponents to less than 150 yards on the ground.
The fact that West Virginia was able to move the ball on the ground so effectively may also have contributed to the Mountaineers outgaining the Sooners through the air, as well (191 to 169).
The Sooners stuck primarily to its ground game, running the ball on 64 of their 79 total offensive plays. Perine carried the ball 31 times and Mixon was handed the ball 24 times.
“I think we wanted to run. We always do,” said head coach Bob Stoopsin his postgame interview session. “I think what happens when it’s going well is you stick with it more. The conditions (cold, snowy and windy) contributed to it, and the lead contributed to it.
“Maybe in the second half, (we) might have been too conservative, but that’s okay, too,” Stoops said. You had to take time off the clock, and we had to manage it in the right way.”
Oklahoma was six out of six scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone against West Virginia. Conversely, the Mountaineers were just three out of six in the Red Zone against the Sooner defense. For the season, the Sooners have been successful scoring touchdowns in 90 percent of their trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line (43 of 48) and they are the only team in the Big 12 not to turn it over inside the Red Zone.
For the second straight week, the OU defense had four takeaways in the game. The eight combined takeaways in the Sooner wins over Baylor and West Virginia doubled the number Oklahoma had in its first nine games and evened the Sooners turnover margin at zero (16 takeaways and 16 giveaways) for the season.
The statistical advantage mostly sided with West Virginia in Saturday night’s showdown between two ranked teams, but the most important statistic – points on the scoreboard – was convincingly in Oklahoma’s favor.