WVU lost its fourth straight series game 44-24 at Oklahoma. Here's a look an insights and analysis from the contest.

NORMAN, Okla. – West Virginia tried to balance a subpar first half with a competitive second one. But a severe lack of execution and key turnovers doomed the 23rd-rated Mountaineers to a discouraging 44-24 loss at No. 15 Oklahoma. Here’s a look at some odds and ends from the contest, which sets up a massive home game with Oklahoma State next week.

  • West Virginia came into the game tops in the nation in turnover margin at plus-nine. It left minus-three for the game and plus-six on the season. It was a key stat, and one thoroughly controlled by the Sooners in OU’s 20-point win. The latter two turnovers by Skyler Howard – a fumble return for a touchdown and interception – cannot happen if WVU is to compete at a high level in the Big 12.
  • The third, another interception, was irrelevant. But after protecting the ball well over the first three games against overmatched foes, Howard finished 17 of 32 for 173 yards with a single touchdown and three interceptions. Add in his early fumble recovery and Oklahoma's fumble return for a score, and the gunslinger proved just that, totaling five turnovers.
  • With all its initial struggles in falling behind 24-7 at the half, West Virginia gained some traction in the third quarter on all sides. The Mountaineers morphed form a badly flustered, somewhat disorganized group to one that used the right side of its line to control OU’s front. Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell peppered the interior and flank and began to better open the passing game for Howard. He responded with far better throws, hitting Jovon Durante for a big gain down the OU sideline and then finding the freshman for a one-yard score to get WVU within 24-14 after the slow start.
  • The defense then responded, Daryl Worley forcing a fumble that was recovered by Nick Kwiatkoski. The offense turned that into Josh Lambert’s field goal, but should have had a surefire touchdown when a wide open Jovon Durante leaped to make an uncontested catch on an underthrown ball, and ended up falling. The drive stalled inside the 10, and WVU settled for three points to trim OU’s lead to 24-17, instead of 24-21.
  • Howard showed some moxie, coming back on the next West Virginia possession to pull the Mountaineers into a legit game with a 50-yard keeper for a touchdown. The play was set-up by the zone read action WVU has employed all season. Howard was in the clear after the ends crashed down hard, and the junior outran the defense for the score, and a 27-24 game before the latest of a half dozen missed coverages handed the Sooners another score and another 10-point edge at 34-24.
  • Oklahoma was intent on attacking both Worley and Terrell Chestnut. The Sooner receivers routinely beat the corners, even within the first handful of plays. One went for a 28-yard score to Sterling Shepherd on Chestnut’s blown coverage to put the Sooners ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter. Coordinator Tony Gibson calmly spoke with Chestnut following the play. Worley was also beaten on a lofted pass, which Dede Westbrook pulled in despite Worley’s interference flag. That was followed by a dropped slant which should have gone for a first down, if not a score, on which Worley struggled to seal off the inside.
  • Baker Mayfield’s opening touchdown to Mark Andrews went 17 yards down the seam. It was a late release for Andrews off the line, and the tight end exploited the open middle after great protection by the OU offensive front. The score was the first allowed by WVU in the first half this season. It wasn’t the only struggle early. Mayfield completed 14 of 25 throws for 320 yards and flipped Howard’s TD:INT ratio at three to one.
  • West Virginia gave up 24 yards in field position on two of OU’s first three punts as a result of fielding the ball near or inside the 10-yard line. It was a major storyline in the first half, WVU starting deep in is own end. The Mountaineers started three first quarter drives at the six, 10 and 14 yard lines. For the opening half, the starting yard lines were 25, 6, 25, 10, 14, 16, 6 and 25. That’s an average of the 15.9 yard line. Take away the kneel downs on kickoffs, and the average is a paltry 10.4 yard line.
  • WVU’s drive after the initial Oklahoma touchdown featured, at one point, a line without Adam Pankey and Kyle Bosch. Bosch was limping on the initial play of the series. Tony Matteo Bosch manned the guard slots for the second half. The Mountaineers also often used Eric Kinsey at defensive end in place of Christian Brown in an effort to get increased speed on the field.
  • Oklahoma amassed 296 yards in the first half, including 212 on 10 completions for 21.2 yards per catch. The Sooners added just enough on the ground to keep the Mountaineers honest. WVU? It tallied 157 yards, an average of 3.5 per play. OU averaged 9.5 yards on every snap through the first half, and finished with at 427 yards and 7.4 per play.
  • Oklahoma hurt itself with key penalties – six for a whopping 75 yards – in the first quarter. The Sooners had WVU behind the chains early, only to be flagged for an illegal hands to the face for an automatic first down. The Sooners, already leading 7-0, were later fluidly moving the ball only to have Westbrook take a cheap shot at Worley after a play. The personal foul pushed Oklahoma back, and WVU forced a punt.

    Westbrook had earlier taken a major shot from Karl Joseph on a deep ball down the WVU sideline, and responded in frustration on the next drive. That cost the Sooners, and seemed to tip off an avalanche of penalties that went against most everything head coach Bob Stoops preaches.

    Oklahoma was flagged for 50 yards in penalties on West Virginia’s seven-play, 86-yard scoring drive to tie the game at 7-7. Another hands to the face on tackle Matthew Romar jumpstarted the issues, the flag again coming via a slap to the head of center Tyler Orlosky. That effectively flipped the field position battle Oklahoma was winning, getting the Mountaineers out from inside their red zone to near midfield. And for yet a fourth miscue, Oklahoma was flagged two plays later for a facemask by Striker on a tackle of Howard.

    And on first down from the Oklahoma 26-yard line, end Charles Tapper was flagged for offsides, then continued on the play, tossing Howard down to draw a 10-yard personal foul as well. The 15 yards put the ball at the six, and West Virginia capitalized, scoring three plays later on Shell’s five-yard rush over the left side to tie at 7-7.

  • Samaje Perine became Oklahoma’s fastest player in the Bob Stoops era to 2,000 yards in a career, accomplishing the task on just 326 carries. DeMarco Murray was the previous fastest. 
  • Eric Striker finished with 13 tackles, his career-high. He had three TFLs, two sacks and the major forced fumble.
  • Oklahoma advanced to 93-8 at home in 101 games under Bob Stoops. The attendance – 84,384 – was also the 101st consecutive sellout for Oklahoma.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories