Mountaineers Give One Away in Norman

Mountaineers Give One Away in Norman

After a home win against a top-25 Virginia Tech team, the West Virginia Mountaineers traveled to Norman looking to prove something. They had zero wins against Oklahoma in conference play. They had zero wins in their history against top-five teams on the road. The Mountaineers looked to shake both monkeys off their backs in the prime-time slot. Would they do it? While things looked good late into the fourth, a couple of miscues cost them big. Like that, the Mountaineers give one away in Norman.

WVU Offense Starts Strong

West Virginia opened the game on offense, and they made the most of it. They ate over nine minutes off the clock with a methodical, 17-play scoring drive. Amazingly, the longest play of the drive was a 16-yard throw to Winston Wright. Otherwise, the Mountaineers racked up a string of four- to six-yard plays, converting once on fourth down.

Head Coach Neal Brown rotated both quarterbacks to keep Oklahoma’s strong defense off-balance, and Garrett Greene punched it in on a 3-yard keeper to open up a seven-point lead. The receivers registered no drops, and the offensive line played its best football of the Brown Era. This was a strong start to a game plan that relied, simply, on limited drives and controlling time of possession.

Oklahoma Answers

On the ensuing kickoff, Jared Bartlett showed a little too much excitement. He drew a 15-yard penalty on a late hit out of bounds on the returner. This gave Oklahoma plus field position. The defense started strong, giving up just six yards in three plays.

Head Coach Lincoln Riley, however, played aggressively and went for it on fourth down. Spencer Rattler caught the defense off-guard and completed a 38-yard strike. Three plays later, Rattler completed a five-yard touchdown pass to Austin Stogner. This knotted the game at seven.

Defensive Battle

As we wrote in our preview and told The Voice of College Football earlier this week, we anticipated a low-scoring game. We made this prediction despite the high-scoring history between these two teams. Neither team managed any big plays through the remainder of the half.

Indeed, Oklahoma finished the first half with just seven points and 91 yards. The Mountaineers ended the half with a field goal and a 10-7 lead. But West Virginia only managed just 161 yards themselves. Going into the half, the script and feel favored the Mountaineers. West Virginia held the ball for over 20 minutes. On the whole, its defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and dialed up significant pressure on all but a few plays.

More Defense in the Third

Oklahoma started their opening drive of the second half strong, marching down the field efficiently. It looked like they figured things out in the locker room. Once they hit the red zone, however, the Mountaineer defense stiffened and held the Sooners to a field goal, again tying the game at ten apiece.

On the next drive, the Mountaineers returned serve and looked like they were going to break things open. The Sooner defense looked tired and gave up several successive chunk plays, including a 20 yard run by Leddie Brown. In the red zone, however, the drive stalled on a false start by Parker Moorer, just the second Mountaineer penalty of the game. Greene ran for two yards. Then, Coach Brown put Jarret Doege back into the game who threw too high to a wide-open Bryce Ford-Wheaton in the middle of the end zone. As a result, they settled for a field goal to take a 13-10 lead.

After trading stops, the Mountaineers headed to the fourth quarter with a 13-10 with Oklahoma driving.

Oklahoma Knots It Again in the Fourth

At the beginning of the final frame, it appeared this game would indeed come to the wire. Oklahoma continued its drive into the red zone. Then, the Sooners stalled their drive on a holding penalty to negate a solid gain on the ground. Dante Stills dialed up the heat and sacked Rattler on the next play, forcing a second and 24. Like that, the Mountaineers’ defense held Oklahoma to a field goal, leaving the game again tied at 13 with just under nine minutes left in the game.

Can WVU Retake the Lead?

The Mountaineers really needed a long, sustained drive like the one they opened the game with at this point. They started with the familiar. They got two yards on the ground with Brown. Doege followed that with a short slant to Bryce Ford-Wheaton for 13 yards. Doege overthrew a well-covered deep ball, but, again, Oklahoma committed a costly penalty with a slightly late hit on Doege.

Momentum stayed with the Mountaineers. Brown ran for three yards, and Doege again hit Ford-Wheaton on a slant in space who gained 11 yards on the play. Doege scrambled for three yards on a bootleg as they caught Oklahoma sleeping on play action. Things looked good. But then a missed snap by Doege cost the Mountaineers 21 yards stalling the play and forcing a punt.

Unfortunately, that series added a tough wrinkle to the game. The Mountaineers successfully ate time off the clock (just over five minutes). But they weren’t able to add points to their total. As a result, Oklahoma took the ball back with 3:41 left on the clock. Now, the very thing that the Mountaineers were looking to make a weapon became the enemy.

Oklahoma Looking to Survive

The Sooners started their drive deep but started to string together several plays. To Mountaineer fans, the result looked inevitable. Maybe WVU is simply not destined to beat the Sooners. This could, after all, be the last chance for them to do so. Indeed, Oklahoma did just that. They milked the clock and ended the defensive battle with a field goal to win 16 to 13.

Mountaineers Shot in the Foot

Make no mistake. Norman is a tough place to win. West Virginia has struggled offensively, and they knew it had to be a defensive battle to have a chance. They executed that part of the plan well. Unfortunately, they shot themselves in the foot late. A false start at the one-yard lane erased a would-be touchdown by Brown. An errant snap by a Freshman All-American stalled what could have been a game-ending scoring drive. Several penalties in the final three minutes were more than the very strong defense could overcome. Like that, the Mountaineers give one away in Norman in what looked to be their best chance to shake their inability to beat the Sooners.

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