West Virginia's offense got its toughest test to this point in the season last week going up against the Oklahoma Sooner defense, and there were some areas were the Mountaineers’ weak spots got exposed.
Quarterback Skyler Howard was running for his life at times, and was sacked seven times for a total of 56 yards by a tenacious Sooner defensive line.
“We lost our technique at times and that can happen for numerous reasons. It can happen because you’re tired. It can happen, because they showed you a look that you didn’t prepare for. It could happen because you lost focus for a split second, and by that time, it’s too late,” said offensive line coach Ron Crook.
“We lost it a few times, and it’s something we’re going to talk about. We are going to address the issue and improve.”
Howard hadn’t really been under fire in the Mountaineers’ three non-conference games, other than a few good hits he took against Maryland, and the WVU signal caller will be hoping for a little better pass protection against Oklahoma State, who comes into Saturday’s contest with the best pass rush in the Big 12 this season.
The Cowboys defensive line has bullied opposing offenses so far, getting to the quarterback for a league-best 22 sacks after five games.
“I think they have a lot of guys that are long, athletic and fast, but they still have power to them. They put their hands on you and push you back into the quarterback. They do a lot of things well,” Crook said.
Led by senior Eric Striker, Oklahoma’s pass rush had a lot of the same characteristics Crook mentioned the Pokes having. The Sooners were able to force WVU into negative plays, which they had avoided early in the year, and set up some third-and-long situations that led to favorable outcomes for the OU.
Those third-and-long situations take all the mystery out of play calling for a defensive coordinator. With the offense handcuffed, the defense can dial up a blitz and potentially force the opposing quarterback into mistakes. That happened plenty of times Saturday against Oklahoma, and redshirt junior offensive lineman Adam Pankey said his team has to do whatever it takes to avoid letting that happen again this week.
“We cannot put ourselves in those situations where they know it’s a pass. We can’t allow them to pin their ears back and come after us. We have to do better on the early downs and avoid that kind of thing. We have to have answers, go through reads and give our offense enough time,” Pankey said.
Howard will need all the time he can get against a good Oklahoma State secondary that has been the best in the Big 12 through five games, allowing just 177.8 passing yards per game. Howard managed just 173 passing yards against Oklahoma last week, but Pankey said keeping a positive mindset about the direction of this team is necessary for WVU to have a turnaround and seure its first Big 12 win of the season Saturday.
“The biggest thing is to stay positive. We knew that there was a possibility that we could meet a bump in the road during the season, because the Big 12 is a tough league. The biggest thing is to keep moving forward and move on to the next game. It’s about putting this one behind us and getting ready for the new challenge this week,” he said.