When West Virginia faces off against Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, one of the key battles will be the pass blocking performance of the Mountaineer offensive line against the speed rushing of Sooners such as Charles Tapper, Eric Striker and Devante Bond -- players who can wreak havoc on opposing passing games. With WVU coming off a less-than-stellar effort in that department against Maryland, the Mountaineers are spending more time this week working on protecting the edges of the pocket.
To be sure, there is always the danger of overcooking the results of any one contest. WVU did have a few leaks in pass protection against the Terps which sent Skyler Howard scrambling away from pressure. It's not a disaster, though, and something that offensive line coach Ron Crook believes can be resolved this week. Although loath to speak of a past game, Crook did indicate that extra attention was being made in pass protection this week.
"The pass blocking not as good as we had hoped," he admitted after reviewing the Maryland game. "Everyone had some mistakes. We played well as a team but there are things we have to keep working on. I think our guys will be up to the task."
And what will that work entail? Technique and attention to detail with which to counter Oklahoma's speed, which is light years better than that of the Terps.
"You have to be great with your technique and have great footwork," Crook said, relying on one of the overlooked aspects of pass protection. "One mistake and the guy is going to be by you. That will be my message this week. Focus on that and put yourself in a good position."
While Oklahoma's defensive schemes and tactics have no correlation to those of Maryland, players such as center Tyler Orlosky will put the lessons of September to work as the new month dawns.
"I think our work against Maryland will definitely carry over [to the Oklahoma game], he said. "We have to take what we learned the past three games and apply it here. I think our run game has progressed well since the start of the season, but the passing game is still a work in progress.
WVU will certainly be cognizant of where players such as Striker line up, and of the importance of keeping him at bay. While it won't be a surprise to see tight ends like Cody Clay and backfield blockers such as Elijah Wellman as major contributors in pass protection, everyone along the line knows where the focus (and attendant blame) goes if the Sooner rush gets to quarterback Skyler Howard.
"We have to know where Striker is on every play," Crook added. "Our guys remember that from last year. They know what they are going up against from last year."
Added Orlosky, "We have to understand they are very good pass rushers, especially on the edge. Our tackles got a heavy workkload this week."