West Virginia-Oklahoma Preview
(AP) - West Virginia no longer has time to savor a solid September.
October looks like a scheduling nightmare.
The 23rd-ranked Mountaineers (3-0) will play three of their first four Big 12 games on the road, starting Saturday at No. 15 Oklahoma (3-0).
All four October games are against ranked opponents.
''I'm anxious to get into Big 12 play,'' said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who insists he hasn't peeked at the schedule beyond his next opponent. ''What we're going to get into at OU, we all understand their history and their tradition, their winning percentage and success that they've had.
''There's going to be a lot of these games coming up here in the next month. I think we're as prepared as we can possibly be and look forward to getting in there and seeing what happens.''
For now the focus is on Oklahoma, which has won all three meetings with the Mountaineers since West Virginia's arrival in the Big 12. Twice in the past three years, the Sooners have struggled to stymie Holgorsen's offense. The Mountaineers rolled up 778 yards against Oklahoma in 2012, with the Sooners winning 50-49 only because quarterback Landry Jones threw a school-record six touchdown passes. Oklahoma won another shootout in the 2014 game, prevailing 45-33 even though West Virginia had 513 yards of offense.
The lone meeting in Norman was a sloppy 16-7 Sooners win that featured four turnovers by both teams.
West Virginia's offense is averaging 543.3 yards and 41 points per game this season, albeit against mostly outmanned competition (Georgia Southern, Liberty and Maryland). Junior quarterback Skyler Howard is averaging 334.7 yards per game passing, completing 69 percent of his pass attempts and throwing for nine touchdowns.
Considering the Mountaineers' defense seems to be greatly improved - they lead the FBS in points allowed (7.7 per game) and turnover margin (plus-3 per game) - it would seem to behoove Oklahoma to avoid an offensive shootout this time around. Stoops said those games can sometimes be hard to win.
''You've got to be able to hold serve and do it as well,'' he said. ''I reflect back - I have often - I said it (Monday) on my radio show, I reflected back to the bowl game with Michigan State and Baylor (last season). Michigan State comes in with one of the top defenses in America and gave up 600 yards passing to Baylor, but still won 42-41, because they had theirs as well. It's challenging and you've got to hold serve.''
Oklahoma defensive back Steven Parker said the Sooners' secondary received a wake-up call during a 52-38 win over Tulsa on Sept. 19, which he thinks will help them focus going forward.
''It was a great teaching moment for us,'' Parker said. ''It kept us on our feet and made us think a little bit more. We know we're going to see this from Baylor and TCU and even West Virginia a little bit. It kind of let us see what we're going to be facing and give us some practice against that type of offense.''
If the Sooners do find themselves in a shootout, they should be equipped for it. Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield has thrown for 10 touchdowns in three games, averaging 9.65 yards per attempt while completing 67.3 percent of his passes. In the past two contests, he's also run 27 times for 131 yards and three scores.
"He's an exciting guy that understands this type of offense and he likes to play the game," Holgorsen said. "He's done some good things.
"We didn't play against him when he was at Texas Tech, but we watched all his games so we knew he was a pretty good player a couple of years ago."
West Virginia found out just how good Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine could be in last season's meeting. Then just three games into his college career, Perine ran for 242 yards and four touchdowns against the Mountaineers on his way to a 1,713-yard season.
Perine had 152 yards against Tulsa after totaling just 111 in the first two games of his sophomore season.
"He ran through some tackles last year," Holgorsen said. "There's no doubt that he was the difference a year ago.
"If anybody is familiar with him, it's us and we have the same defensive guys this year that we had last year. ... He's a great back. He's a powerful guy that you have to get more than one person on him to get him to the ground."