Oklahoma is heading into Big 12 play without its top rusher as it faces a team that’s shown it can hang with the nation’s top competition.
The fourth-ranked Sooners will try to overcome the loss of running back Keith Ford on Saturday night at West Virginia, which opened the season with a close loss to Alabama and has played Bob Stoops’ team close since joining the Big 12.
Ford, park of Oklahoma’s three running back rotation, will miss at least a week with a small fracture in his right leg, which was suffered in Saturday’s 34-10 home win over Tennessee.
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"That’ll be a week-to-week," said Stoops, who was already without highly touted incoming freshman running back Joe Mixon for the season after he was charged with misdemeanor assault and suspended. "That could be two weeks, three weeks, it’s always a little bit hard to tell, depending on how it heals, so we’ll just have to wait and see how that goes. For sure, he won’t be able to play this week."
The sophomore leads the Sooners (3-0) with 195 yards and 34 carries, though the team also depends on Samaje Perine (177 yards on 32 attempts) and Alex Ross (132 yards, 21 attempts). Ford is also a receiving threat with six catches for 100 yards, good for the third-highest total on the team. His six total touchdowns lead the conference.
Trevor Knight doesn’t feel the offensive adjustments will be substantial. The second-year quarterback threw for 308 yards against the Volunteers for his highest regular-season total.
"I think all three of those guys are ready to step in at any time that they are called upon and do great things," Knight said. "You’ve seen through the first three games that all of them have the big-play threat and can run the ball effectively and do what we need to do in our offense."
The Mountaineers (2-1) will also be dealing with an absence with cornerback Daryl Worley suspended indefinitely. The sophomore, who has 17 tackles and two interceptions, has been arrested and accused of grabbing a woman around the neck and shoving her to the ground at a nightclub.
With him, however, they struggled to slow down Maryland in Saturday’s 40-37 win, which came on a last-second field goal after West Virginia gave away a 22-point lead.
Clint Trickett had a career day with 511 yards and four TDs on 37-of-49 passing. Top target Kevin White had 13 receptions for 216 yards and ranks second in the country with 32 catches and 460 yards.
Trickett’s 1,224 yards for the season rank third in the FBS, and the team’s 1,693 yards rank ninth in the country even with Alabama among its opponents.
Oklahoma, however, has limited opponents to 296.3 yards per game.
"(The Sooners) are a great team and have a high power offense," Trickett told the school’s official website. "They have a great defense as well and are returning a lot of guys. They are a traditional powerhouse. They are Oklahoma, but I said the same thing with Alabama. There is no such thing as an unbeatable team.
"We just have to find whatever weaknesses they have, if there are any, and try to exploit them."
West Virginia’s first game against a top-five opponent was a 33-23 defeat to the then-No. 2 Crimson Tide on Aug. 30. It was the school’s fourth straight loss against the top five, but Stoops will certainly remember the Mountaineers’ win that preceded that stretch, a 48-28 victory over then-No. 3 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 2008.
Oklahoma handed the Mountaineers a 16-7 loss in the second week of 2013 to improve to 2-0 in the series since West Virginia joined the Big 12. The meetings have been single-digit affairs of opposite styles. The 2012 game ended 50-49 at West Virginia before last season’s 16-7 final at Norman.
The Mountaineers limited Knight to 10 for 20 with 119 yards, a TD and two interceptions, but Oklahoma held West Virginia scoreless in the second half to preserve the win.
West Virginia is 6-12 in conference play since joining the Big 12, while Oklahoma’s seven-game winning streak ranks second in the country to Florida State’s 18-game run.