MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Turnovers and special teams mistakes are starting to pile up for West Virginia, and the Mountaineers are looking for a quick fix with a showdown looming with No. 4 Oklahoma.
West Virginia lost three fumbles and had several issues on its punt and field goal units in a 40-37 win over Maryland on Saturday.
”It’s just going to get harder and harder each week,” said West Virginia special teams coach Joe DeForest. ”All you can do is keep practicing every week and fix your mistakes.”
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Fumbles by running back Rushel Shell and wide receiver Mario Alford inside the Maryland 20 added to West Virginia’s concerns as the Mountaineers (2-1) prepare to face Oklahoma (3-0) in their Big 12 opener Saturday night.
”The turnovers were bad, but the kids found a way to win and that is the most important thing,” said West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. ”We cannot turn the ball over.”
That might be difficult against Oklahoma, which has forced eight turnovers so far while coughing up the ball four times. Sooners cornerback Zack Sanchez has an interception in every game this season and blocked a field goal in the opener against Louisiana Tech.
It could come down to which team can hold onto the ball without distraction, and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Oklahoma could give his offense fits.
Holgorsen called Oklahoma linebacker Eric Stryker ”as good as anyone in the country when it comes to being disruptive.
”They do a great job of getting to the quarterback. Their d-line is relentless – it seems like every dang d-line we play in the month of September has been relentless.”
Despite the special teams problems, it was a 47-yard field goal by Josh Lambert as time ran out that beat Maryland. Lambert had a 43-yarder blocked with four minutes left in the game.
”It was definitely crazy,” Lambert said. ”We had stuff go our way and we had stuff that didn’t go our way, but you just have to stay positive and expect things to go your way and things will.”
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Jordan Thompson fumbled a punt and Maryland recovered at the West Virginia 8 and kicked a field goal. Maryland’s William Likely later returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
Thompson also failed to field a punt with time winding down and the ball rolled to West Virginia’s 5-yard line. West Virginia managed to drive 65 yards for the winning field goal.
West Virginia did block a Maryland punt out of the end zone for a safety earlier in the game, but all the negatives weighed heavy on DeForest’s mind.
”I’m sick to my stomach still to this day,” he said.