It wasn't easy, but No. 4 Oklahoma continued its perfect start to the 2021 season on Saturday night, defeating West Virginia 16-13.
Quarterback Spencer Rattler struggled for much of the game, finishing with 256 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He came through on the game's final drive, however, completing all six of his passes and setting up Gabe Brkic for the game-winning field goal as time expired.
The two teams traded touchdowns on their opening drives, but the rest of the game was a defensive struggle. The Mountaineers' swift, attacking defense made life difficult for Rattler, and they went into halftime of this game up 10-7 and having held the Sooners to just 91 yards of total offense.
With the offense sputtering, Oklahoma's defense held its own. West Virginia was held to just one field goal in the second half. A bad snap late in the fourth quarter ruined a chance at a second field goal and put Rattler in position to march his team down the field for the win. Oklahoma managed 313 yards of total offense, while West Virginia put up 246.
Oklahoma (4-0) has now won nine straight games against West Virginia (2-2) and remains tied atop the Big-12 standings with Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Notable Game Stats
Spencer Rattler (OU): 26-36,256 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Michael Woods II (OU): 8 receptions, 86 yards
Delarrin Turner-Yell (OU): 8 tackles, 1 INT
Jarret Doege (WVU): 20-29, 160 yards, 1 INT
Bryce Ford-Wheaton (WVU): 8 receptions, 93 yards
Taijh Alston (WVU): 4 tackles, 2 sacks
Rattler Struggles in the Spotlight
After throwing for 28 touchdowns and just seven picks as a freshman last year, Rattler was tipped as a potential Heisman candidate this season. So far, he's struggling to live up to the hype.
Everything appeared to be in working order on the first drive, with Rattler marching down the field and finding Austin Stogner for a five-yard touchdown to tie the game at seven apiece.
The rest of the half was a mess for the Sooners offense. They ran just 14 plays on their next four drives. Three ended in punts, and another was cut short when Rattler threw into coverage, and Jackie Matthews came up with an acrobatic interception.
Following the pick, frustrated Oklahoma fans could be heard calling for true freshman Caleb Williams to replace Rattler.
The second half wasn't much better for Rattler. He faced constant pressure and couldn't make big plays in third-down situations. Two promising drives sputtered out and ended in field goals. Rattler also failed to make plays with his legs, as he finished with zero yards on nine carries.
To his credit, Rattler showed plenty of composure on the last drive, which started on his own eight-yard line. He calmly took what the defense gave him and put Brkic in position to win the game on a chip shot.
Outside of the Western Carolina blowout, Rattler has thrown for just three touchdowns against three interceptions. Head coach Lincoln Riley may be tempted to work in Williams, as his dual-threat capabilities bring a different dimension to a struggling offense.
West Virginia's Two-QB System Lets Down Valiant Defensive Effort
West Virginia's offense didn't do much of note in this game. Its best drive was arguably its first one, a 17-play marathon that ended in a short touchdown run by quarterback Garrett Greene.
Greene and Jarret Doege were swapping in and out of the game throughout, with the latter getting most of the snaps. Neither player was able to get the offense in a rhythm, and Doege threw an interception in the first half. Late in the game, the swapping proved disastrous.
Tied at 13 with just over five minutes remaining, the Mountaineers had back-to-back miscues from the center that ruined a long drive. The first was an illegal procedure with Greene in the backfield, and then Doege came in and wasn't ready for a snap that ended up losing the team 21 yards and taking them out of field-goal position. The Mountaineers were forced to punt, and the Sooners won the game on the next drive.
It's a shame that the offense's disastrous play ruined a chance at a major upset. The Mountaineers' front seven was relentless throughout, defending both the run and the pass well. They sacked Rattler four times and held the Sooners to just 57 rushing yards. Despite the tough loss, the country's top red-zone defense proved it could handle business just as well outside the 20-yard line.
Oklahoma will hit the road for the first time this season, taking on Kansas State on Oct. 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX. West Virginia will look to bounce back that same day when they host Texas Tech at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.