West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Oklahoma Sooners Complete Game Preview
West Virginia didn't look like a team capable of competing for a Big 12 Conference title in a narrow 24-17 Week 1 win over William & Mary.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma was dominant defensively in a decisive 34-0 win over UL-Monroe.
Now the two will clash in the first Big 12 tilt of 2013.
A heavy favorite, the Sooners look poised to win with ease, but do the Mountaineers have something up their sleeve as they head into hostile territory?
Date: Saturday, Sept. 7
Time: 7 p.m. EDT
Location: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
Game Tracker: WVUsports.com
Line: Oklahoma (-21.5), via Odds Shark
West Virginia Keys to Victory
1. Prevent Big Plays
If it wasn't for a few big plays in Week 1, head coach Dana Holgorsen wouldn't have lost so many hairs in West Virginia's close victory over William & Mary.
The Mountaineers will be faced with an even tougher task against Oklahoma and are bound to yield more total yardage.
With a standard day of production by OU, WVU can have a shot at victory. However, if the Mounties allow the Sooners to break loose for massive gains, it will be a long day in Norman.
2. Offensive Balance
West Virginia was far too one-sided offensively against W&M.
That worked out in the end against the Tribe, but relying too heavily on Charles Sims and the running game won't be fruitful against a staunch OU defense.
Quarterback Paul Millard will need to play a clean game, but he will also need more big plays out of his receivers. Whether it is Ron Carswell, Daikiel Shorts or another pass-catcher, WVU needs more production out of its receiving corps.
3. Keep It Close
Right from the opening gun, West Virginia will need to bring intensity and passion.
While that might sound abstract, the end result is what really matters: The Mountaineers must score early and prevent from playing catch-up.
At this point, WVU doesn't look capable of playing from behind and certainly can't expect to hang with OU score-for-score like it did in 2012.
The less pressure placed on Millard the better.
Oklahoma Keys to Victory
1. Lock Down on Third Down
Statistics don't always tell the full story of a game, but the numbers don't lie when it comes to Oklahoma's defensive performance Week 1 against UL-Monroe.
The Sooners were excellent on defense and held the Warhawks to just two third-down conversions in 16 tries.
If OU can do the same against WVU on third down, it will be smooth sailing.
2. Run Well to Set Up Big Plays
West Virginia's run defense will be stronger than the one presented by UL-Monroe, so OU can't rely solely on a run-dominated attack.
If the Sooners can establish a strong running game, they should be able to replicate the big plays that William & Mary generated against WVU.
Jalen Saunders, Jaz Reynolds, Trey Metoyer and company will be poised for a big day if Oklahoma can run well enough to open up the Mountaineers secondary.
3. Unleash Trevor Knight
A confident and collected Trevor Knight will be a nightmare for West Virginia.
If Knight is put in situations where he can succeed early, OU can put the Mountaineers away before they even have a chance to settle into their game plan.
WVU Players to Watch
1. Paul Millard, QB
West Virginia will try to limit the amount of responsibility on Paul Millard's shoulders. However, in reality, he will need to have a great game for the Mountaineers to win.
WVU will have some success on the ground thanks to its stable of running backs, but that won't be enough.
Millard must not only limit mistakes, but also put his teammates in position to make plays.
2. Charles Sims, RB
There is no question about who is West Virginia's best player.
Charles Sims came to WVU with high expectations and showed he is the real deal against William & Mary.
The former Houston Cougar came to WVU for a chance to play in the Big 12 Conference. Already in Week 2, he has his chance to shine on a big stage.
If Sims is selfish and has a big individual game, the Mountaineers will be better off as a team.
3. Brandon Golson, OLB
West Virginia will have its hands full dealing with the OU running attack led by quarterback Trevor Knight and running back Damien Williams.
In just his second game for WVU, junior college transfer Brandon Golson will carry a big responsibility in preventing the Sooners rushing attack from cutting upfield.
Golson did a great job at pushing the William & Mary rushes to the sideline. He will need to be even better against Oklahoma.
OU Players to Watch
1 and 2. Trevor Knight, QB, and Damien Williams, RB
Trevor Knight's running ability will present a problem for the West Virginia defense.
Look for OU to confuse WVU with two dangerous runners in Knight and Damien Williams together in the backfield.
UL-Monroe chose to key in on Williams, which opened up space for Knight to eclipse 100 yards on the ground.
In a pick-your-poison situation for the West Virginia defense, Oklahoma will hold a major advantage with Knight and Williams.
3. Jalen Saunders, WR
With Knight and Williams running free, more room will be opened up in the WVU secondary for receivers like Jalen Saunders.
With 20 career touchdowns, Saunders will prevent a tough one-on-one challenge for the Mountaineers defensive backs.
Those WVU corners and safeties struggled against William & Mary receiver Tre McBride. Look for them to struggle even more with Saunders and company.
What They're Saying
WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen on playing OU Week 2:
I've been asked a lot if I'm excited about playing Oklahoma week two or if I'd rather play them week 12. The truth is I'd rather play them never because they're pretty good.
Holgorsen on OU quarterback Trevor Knight:
He can run. He's a talented guy. His completion percentage wasn't very good, but when I watched the tape, he's pretty good. He can throw. He's a talented quarterback, and he's going to get better and better. They're going to rely on him to make plays in the run and passing games. Hopefully he doesn't get things figured out this week. I would anticipate him figuring things out and being a very good quarterback for Oklahoma.
WVU linebacker Isaiah Bruce on defending Knight and the OU offense:
On defense, everyone has to stay on the page. If one person is doing their own thing or doesn't get the call, the other team goes the other way for a touchdown. Everyone is only responsible for so much. No one should be thinking about someone else's job. Everyone has to just do their part and not think about it too much.
OU head coach Bob Stoops on what he expects from the WVU offense:
Dana has his plays that he stays with and they do it well. They were pretty vanilla in their first game but I know we won't see a vanilla scheme in what they're doing against us. It'll be different so we'll prepare for a lot of what we saw last year.
Stoops on what he expects from the WVU defense:
They're still in the 50-front and doing a lot of movement and blitzing. Just trying to get pressure from that area. I felt like they tried to do that a year ago. They looked fast and they looked aggressive. I thought they played well here in their first game.
OU defensive back Aaron Colvin on last year's 50-49 result against WVU:
It hurt; I'm not going to lie. For us to give up those kind of numbers to a team like that. Don’t get me wrong they are a great team and the coaches do a great job of putting them in the right situation but as far as the defense, especially here at the University of Oklahoma, it's not acceptable. We had to move forward from last year. This year we remember what happened last year and we will not forget it.
Holgorsen quotes via WVUsports.com.
Bruce quote via Nick Arthur of WVUsports.com.
Stoops quotes via SoonerSports.com.
Colvin quote via SoonerSports.com.
A strong start from West Virginia will see the Mountaineers ahead 10-0 early.
However, just as they did against William & Mary, the Mountaineers will slow down soon after.
OU will settle in and respond with 17 unanswered points before halftime, including a long touchdown reception by Jalen Saunders.
With a newfound sense of confidence, Trevor Knight and the Sooners won't let off the gas in the second half.
West Virginia will hang tough thanks to big plays from Charles Sims and Mario Alford, but won't be able to keep up with the Oklahoma attack.
The Sooners will win with relative comfort at home.
Final Score: OU 34, WVU 24
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