First conference game of the season so get to know all about West Virginia. Sooners Illustrated is going to Blue Gold News publisher Kevin Kinder to get the lowdown on what OU fans need to know about the Mountaineers.
How surprised were you guys by the performance against Alabama? Has that been used as a catalyst so far through this early part of the season?
Mildly surprised, as the expectation was that Alabama would be able to wear WVU down and stop the Mountaineer offense more consistently than it did. WVU was able to score on its opening drive, which set the tone for the game. Although West Virginia fell short, it was very competitive, and answered every time Alabama threatened to put the game away. While that performance was heartening to Mountaineer fans, the team and coaches were quick to not count it as a moral victory. The performance may have been heartening, but it hasn't been any sort of rallying point so far.
The loss of Daryl Worley hurts, obviously. Who is going to have to step up in his absence? And how big is the drop off from Worley to his replacement(s)?
WVU gets Ishmael Banks back from a three game suspension just in time to fill in for Worley. Banks had held off challenges from Terrell Chestnut and Travis Bell at the opposite corner position throughout the spring and fall, so West Virginia won't have to fill in with an unproven candidate. Still, there is a dropoff from Worley to any other cornerback in the program. It's not catastrophic, but it will be noticeable. West Virginia built much of its early season pass coverage around his skills.
Where did this Clint Trickett come from? What do you attribute the most to his blistering start this season?
West Virginia, of course! Trickett was around the program growing up, as his father Rick was WVU's offensive line coach and his brother Travis a graduate assistant under Rich Rodriguez. Clint's performance last year was severely impacted by a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The repaired joint, and greater comfort with the offense, have allowed him to blossom this year.
Conference game. Top five opponent. Night game. Somebody is looking for the chance to make a statement. Who is that player or players the Mountaineers need to have a huge breakout game to pull off the upset?
Perhaps it’s not so much one player as execution in the red zone and short yardage. West Virginia has moved the ball up and down the field all year, but has struggled some in picking up short conversions on third and fourth down, and in scoring in the red zone. When the Mountaineers get the ball inside OU's thirty, it has to come away with points, and the majority of those scores must be touchdowns.
Trickett and White run the offense. Who is the one name on defense for OU fans to concern themselves about?
Karl Joseph is an anchor on the second level of the defense who must play well for WVU to contain OU. Part linebacker, part safety, Joseph is a hard hitter and efficient tackler who had an incredible 18 stops against Alabama. The Mountaineers aren't going to shut the Sooners down, but if they are to get enough stops to keep the game in hand, Joseph will have to play well -- especially against the run.