MATCH-UPS, MUSINGS AND MORE
Let's get this out of the way early. Losing Daryl Worley is a big deal. I fully understand that the coaching staff can't dwell on it, and can't publicly say that it will be a major factor, but that doesn't change the fact that its defensive game plans have been geared in part around the abilities of the sophomore corner. Whether it was having Worley shadow the opposition's best receiver or shading coverages away from him in the knowledge that he could cover his man or area without assistance, there's no doubt that West Virginia's pass defense utilized his abilities to the utmost, and that some adjustments will have to be made.
That said, it's not panic time for WVU. Ishmael Banks, who successfully held off all challenges to his starting position through the spring and fall camp, returns just in time to shore up the secondary. In all likelihood, he'll get the start opposite Terrell Chestnut. Past that, though, things get thin. Travis Bell and Ricky Rumph, both of whom have been slotted at other positions over the past couple of years, will be available, as will Jaylon Myers, whose late arrival at camp zapped any chances he had of contributing early. Injuries to players such as Nana Kyeremeh, Brandon Napoleon and Keishawn Richardson have also slowed their progress (and ended Napoleon's season) through the fall, making them depth in name only.
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West Virginia must play well early, and can't afford to fall behind to far in the opening half. In fact, it might not be able to fall behind at all. Oklahoma has won 45 consecutive games in which it has lead at the half. WVU was close to breaking that string last year in Norman when it trailed just 13-7 at the break, but wasn't able to score after that early Dreamius Smith touchdown.
That doesn't mean WVU has to be lights out in the opening quarter. However, its ability to move the ball and score early against all three of its foes to date is an important one, and it must continue against the Sooners.
WHERE'D THAT MASCOT COME FROM?
This one's pretty simple, and very unique. OU gets its name from the people who cheated the starting time of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, which allowed each person entering the state from designated starting points to claim up to 160 acres of land. While many people followed the rules, a number snuck across early to claim choice spots, while others used their official positions to "legally" snare their plots. While the term was initially applied with derision, it eventually was twisted into a positive meaning, leading to the adoption of the term by the school in 1908.
Also of note is the derivation of the "Boomer" part of the Boomer! Sooner! chant employed by fans. It too came from land grants, this time those taking advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862. During this time, those in favor of opening unassigned lands in the Oklahoma Territory (a far larger parcel of land than the current state), were termed "Boomers".
ITEMS TO WATCH
West Virginia's penchant for giving up a score right before the end of the first ha;f has grown to alarming proportions. It happened again last week, and helped Maryland turn a 28-6 deficit into a competitive 28-20 game. Coupled with a score on the opening drive of the second half, and the Terps tallied 21 consecutive points to make what should have been a rout a nail-biter.
Is West Virginia losing focus as the half nears? Or is it a case of opposing offenses figuring out a bit of what the Mountaineers are doing defensively, and thus getting better at moving the ball? Were that the case, the opposition might be expected to routinely have better second halves than first, but for the Terps that wasn't the case. Whatever the reason, WVU simply must do a better job of keeping foes off the board on their last possession of the half. While it's true that it's just one score, it often provides a psychological boost which follows a team into the locker room, and then out onto the field for the start of the third quarter.
West Virginia's short yardage and red zone offense, spotty at best so far, will be matched against a Sooner defense that has yet to yield a rushing touchdown this year. Oklahoma is giving up an average of just 2.7 yards per rush, making opponents decidedly one dimensional. WVU isn't likely to run around the Sooners with jet sweeps or other wide plays, so look for some misdirection or some "scissors" action in the backfield to try to get the OU defense pursuing and moving in the wrong direction.
When it does run, the Mountaineers have to do so hard. There can't be any hesitation, tiptoeing or dancing; otherwise, OU's rushing defense is going to dominate the game.
SOMETHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Fourth down conversion attempts have been a topic of discussion throughout Dana Holgorsen's tenure at West Virginia, and this year has been no different. However, it's not just West Virginia that has been looking to extend possessions. While the Mountaineers are 3-7 so far on the year on fourth down, Oklahoma has gone for it five times, converting four. Both teams have seen opponents push the envelope as well. OU has allowed three successful fourth down conversions in five attempts, but the Mountaineers have been stingier, yielding non in four tries.