West Virginia escapes, now faces Oklahoma

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There was only time for a quick sigh of relief after West Virginia escaped with a 24-17 come-from-behind victory in the season opener Saturday against William & Mary. In the next breath, it was on to Oklahoma.

The Mountaineers (1-0) open the Big 12 Conference season Saturday night against the 16th-ranked Sooners in Norman, Okla. Oklahoma (1-0) gave Louisiana-Monroe a proper 34-0 drubbing Saturday.

"I've been asked a lot if I'm excited about playing Oklahoma in week two or if I'd rather play them week 12," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said at his Tuesday news conference. "The truth of the matter is I'd like to play them never, because they're pretty good."

The Sooners visited Morgantown in November and came away with a 50-49 victory after a last-minute touchdown pass from quarterback Landry Jones to receiver Kenny Stills. The teams combined for 1,440 yards that day.

This rematch isn't expected to feature the same sort of offensive pyrotechnics. Both teams are breaking in new quarterbacks: junior Paul Millard for West Virginia and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight for Oklahoma.

On Saturday, the Mountaineers and Sooners appeared to renounce their membership in the pass-happy Big 12, with WVU running 44 times to 27 pass plays and Oklahoma 50 to 33.

"I'd like to throw the ball a lot more than we did," he said. "We're talking about throwing the ball 30 percent of the time -- that's embarrassing. We're going to try to correct that, that's for certain."

With Geno Smith under center last fall, West Virginia averaged 329.6 passing yards per game; on Saturday, the Mountaineers threw for just 237 yards.

"What the heck's going on here?" Holgorsen asked with a grin. "Time to go to work."

On the road again

West Virginia was 2-3 away from home last season, but visiting Norman is different from any typical road game. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has lost just five home games in his 14 seasons as Sooners coach.

Multiplying the concerns of this first road trip, a large portion of the West Virginia roster are first-time travelers.

"This is a new experience for probably 30 to 35 guys who will be traveling to Norman that haven't traveled with our team before," Holgorsen said. "That's a lot of guys and a lot of inexperience."

Injury report

Redshirt senior linebacker Dozie Ezemma's West Virginia career has come to an end, as the pass-rushing specialist had a season-ending leg injury Saturday while on goal-line coverage.

"Dozie broke his lower leg and foot," Holgorsen said. "He got it all twisted up. It was a bad break, and he's out. He's more than likely going to have to need surgery."

Ezemma was expected to be an integral part of the special teams, but will instead be replaced by redshirt senior Tyler Anderson.

Junior wide receiver Kevin White remains listed as day to day with a foot injury that sidelined him for the opener.


Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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