West Virginia game vs. Oklahoma loses some luster
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The game of the season is not quite the game of the season anymore.
But West Virginia is bidding for an upset against No. 13 Oklahoma at 7 p.m. today in a game that will have a major impact on the Mountaineers' bowl position. West Virginia (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) is one win away from bowl eligibility.
The Sooners (7-2, 5-1) bring one of the league's top-rated quarterbacks in Landry Jones and a man-coverage defense that will pose new problems for West Virginia's still-struggling offense.
"It's a good opportunity for our wideouts to have some one-on-one matchups, and it's up to me to put the ball in the right spot," quarterback Geno Smith said. "It's a good opportunity for us, and I'm looking forward to it."
- Matchup: West Virginia (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) vs. Oklahoma (7-2, 5-1), 7 p.m. today, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va. Sooners are favored by 11.
- TV, Radio: WPGH, Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius 128, XM 197.
- West Virginia: QB Geno Smith ranks No. 4 in the country with 31 touchdown passes. ... WR Stedman Bailey had 14 catches and 225 receiving yards at Oklahoma State. ... Pass defense remains at No. 120 in Division I-A (345.2 ypg).
- Oklahoma: QB Landry Jones is 151 of 230 for 1,861 yards, 14 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. ... Has averaged 197.2 rushing yards per game in past five. ... No. 8-ranked pass defense in Division I-A (170.2 ypg) and No. 24 scoring defense (19.6). ... DB Javon Harris had a career- and team-high 14 tackles against Baylor. ... Only two losses came against top-3 teams, Kansas State and Notre Dame. ... Have outscored past five opponents, 233-102.
- Hidden stat: Oklahoma is 30-0 under coach Bob Stoops when having a 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver.
The Sooners defense plays what West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson jokes is called "cat coverage."
"It's cat coverage. I got that cat. You got that cat. They're good, they're athletic," Dawson said.
The base formation of four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs helped Oklahoma climb to No. 8 in pass defense in Division I-A, allowing 170.2 yards per game.
That will be a massive test for the Mountaineers' once-prolific passing attack that is struggling with depth.
The Sooners' average includes games against Texas Tech and Baylor -- 1-2 in passing offense in the Big 12.
"It really doesn't matter [what kind of defense they play], just presents a little different challenge," said Dawson. "To be honest with you, the last two weeks, in my opinion, has been really close to being really good, but for some reason or not we're just a little off."
The Sooners are No. 2 in the league in total defense, allowing 325.2 yards a game.
A lot of West Virginia's success will depend on players winning one-on-one matchups.
"Are our guys good enough to win those one-on-one matchups?" asked coach Dana Holgorsen. "We will see Saturday night. When you think of a one-on-one matchup, you are not looking at one receiver having to beat one [defensive back]. You are looking at four receivers and potentially a running back who have to win those matchups, and then you have two safeties that do what they want. They still have help over the top."
In the past two games, the Mountaineers offense began to make progress from its two worst outings of the season -- against Texas Tech, then Kansas State.
West Virginia outgained Oklahoma State in the air, 401-292, and before that picked up 21 first downs against TCU before losing in overtime.
"Bottom line is, when you have the opportunity to make a play you have to make it. Right now we're not making those plays," Dawson said. "The worst thing you can do is sit there and keep pointing it out, because then you're going to be uptight. The best thing to do when things aren't going your way is to kind of ignore it and let karma work itself out."
NOTES -- Multiple former players are expected to be in Morgantown for the kickoff, including defensive end Bruce Irvin, a first-round draft pick for the Seattle Seahawks, who will be an honorary captain.
First Published November 17, 2012 12:00 am