OU is not underestimating West Virginia
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Saturday, November 17, 2012
11/17/12 at 6:43 AM
For more OU stories.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Casey Walker can't believe it either.
Like many college football observers, the Oklahoma defensive tackle can't believe that the West Virginia team he'll play Saturday night is the same bunch that stormed to a 5-0 record the first month of the season. The team that caused folks to ask: "So who's finishing behind Geno Smith in the Heisman race?" and "How do you hold those guys under 50?"
Now, the Mountaineers are 5-4 and just trying to qualify for the Meineke Car Care Bowl. That's sort of a shock, yes?
"For sure," Walker said. "I watch Sunday night bowl projections and highlights and stuff, and I'm like, 'Wow, they really just got beat by them?' "
The Sooners were careful all week not to diagnose West Virginia's specific problems. They did, though, drop a few hints.
"They've given up some creases and kind of moved out of gaps at times, and given up big runs," OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "Then they've been susceptible a little bit to the pass."
A little bit? The Mountaineers rank dead last among the 120 FBS teams in pass defense. They have allowed 27 touchdown throws while making seven interceptions. The Mountaineers are respectable against the run, but not enough to keep their total defense from ranking 110th.
OU offensive line coach James Patton meant no disrespect this week, but his assessment of the West Virginia defense spoke volumes about the trouble in Morgantown: "They're just throwing a bunch of stuff at you and seeing what sticks."
Another problem, besides West Virginia's plastic defense and animated special teams, as explained by OU defensive end R.J. Washington: "When you switch conferences like they did, you may not be able to know what you've gotten yourself into, I think. Their old conference (the Big East), they might get a good game every once in a while. In the Big 12 you can get beat every week.
"That's just growing pains of switching conferences."
The Mountaineers felt pretty good about themselves after outscoring Baylor and Texas early in the season. Then they were punched square in the jaw at Texas Tech Oct. 13.
The next week, instead of steadying themselves for Kansas State, they dropped their gloves completely. A 55-14 beatdown ensued, in Morgantown no less.
This week, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen used the following words and phrase in his press conference: "garbage," "sad," "embarrassing" and "not a lot of fun for anybody."
Into this mess come the 7-2 Sooners. They have Landry Jones to exploit West Virginia's feeble pass coverage. They have the kickers and return men to exploit the Mountaineers' dizzy special teams. They are 4-0 away from home this season.
When the 2012 schedule came out, this one had Sooner rooters scared to death. Now, why not feel supremely confident?
"They've still got great players. They've got some of the most explosive offensive players in the country," OU cornerback Aaron Colvin countered. "We recognize that. From what I've seen they're a home run threat almost every time they get the ball, with Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. Geno Smith is finding ways to get the ball out to them."
There's the threat. Smith, the runaway Heisman favorite through Oct. 6, getting hot slinging to Bailey and Austin, a pair of receivers with a combined 2,023 yards and 27 touchdowns.
There's the threat. And here's the answer to it.
"They're good players," OU safety Tony Jefferson said of Bailey and Austin. "But we've faced better before. We're ready."
Sounds like this game was marked on some Sooner calendars, too.
"Just a new team in the conference, they came in talking a little smack," Jefferson said. "I've been ready for this one."
"Our guys have heard all the hype at the beginning of the year and through the year, and rightfully so, about their high-powered offense," OU coach Bob Stoops said, "their strength as a team overall and their play. Our guys are aware of all those things. I sensed in the locker room after the (Baylor) game that they understood it and were looking forward to the challenge of it."
The challenge, once considered OU's, might now be West Virginia's.
"I understand the frustrations that have existed," Holgorsen said this week. "Not only with the team, but coaches and players are well-frustrated ...
"We will get out there and practice hard and put them in a position to hopefully make some plays and catch some breaks to where we can win this week."
No. 13 OU at W. Virginia
6 p.m. Saturday
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Sooners will not underestimate Mountaineers
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355