3 Keys to WVU Football Claiming First Win Over Oklahoma Since Joining Big 12
Even though the season has not gone the way anyone involved with the West Virginia football team wanted or expected it to, there’s plenty of motivation to win a game when it’s against an opponent the program has never been able to beat since joining the Big 12.
This may also be the most vulnerable Oklahoma team WVU has faced in the decade of sharing a conference. The Mountaineers have come close at times, namely a 50-49 loss on a night Tavon Austin put on an historic all-purpose show likely never to be duplicated again or a more recent 16-13 loss just a season ago, but moral victories don’t actually count for anything.
Is this finally the time WVU will claim an over the Sooners, the first since the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. If so, here are the three things Neal Brown’s team absolutely must do on Saturday afternoon.
Run, Run, Run the Ball
As strange as this would’ve sounded in past years, Oklahoma may be just what the doctor ordered for the WVU offense get back on track, especially on the ground. WVU has used the run to set up the pass and balance out the offense all season, and that’s worked effectively for the most part. However, WVU is coming off its worst offensive showing of the season in the loss to Iowa State.
WVU Postgame Show: Can West Virginia Football Dig Out of This Hole?
Justin Johnson Jr., who was forced into the top back role with Tony Mathis out and CJ Donaldson missing the remainder of the season, had a solid game considering the situation. He averaged 4 yards per carry. But there’s an opportunity for the Mountaineers to really stack the rushing yards against a Sooners team that has allowed almost 200 rushing yards per game this season, which is dead last in the Big 12. WVU will also get Mathis back for this game and both Neal Brown and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell has made it known they want to use quarterback Garrett Greene even more this week. He averaged 5.4 yards per touch for 27 yards as a needed runner against the Cyclones.
If WVU can’t run the effectively against such a bad run defense, it’s very likely the offense is struggling to move the ball and it will be another long day for the old gold and blue.
Do Not be Careless with the Football
This goes without saying, but needs to be said when critical turnovers have made poor games that much worse for WVU. Quarterback JT Daniels threw three picks for the first time in his college career in Lubbock and Texas Tech capitalized en route to a 48-10 beat down. A critical interception in Ames killed any chance of WVU mounting a comeback effort. While this matchup with the Sooners is winnable, Oklahoma still has tons of talent on the roster and can take advantage of miscues and mistakes by West Virginia. That could be the difference in game between two struggling teams too.
JT Daniels Needs to Step Up
One of the reasons why many WVU fans are so disappointed about this season is the hope generated by the addition of JT Daniels. Once Daniels made the decision to come to Morgantown, something he admitted was largely based on getting to learn from Graham Harrell again, people thought the quarterback position would receive that boost and upgrade that had been holding the team back. And while Daniels was playing well early in the season, the team was not winning. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, Daniels has recently played at a less than satisfactory level and hasn’t been helping a WVU team that’s desperately trying to salvage some hope out of the rest of the season. His poor play has also led to the offense, a strength of the team for awhile this year, to become a weakness and problem.
In order for the addition of Daniels to pay off team wise, he will have to return next year and try to do all of this again. But in order for Daniels to actually bring his NFL stock to a level pro scouts will be impressed by, he needs a big game and some type of signature moment this year. It’s also fair to say that if Daniels continues to struggle and WVU is mathematically eliminated from bowl eligibility, which a loss would achieve, it might be time to look at the future and bench the transfer for Garrett Greene or even give time to Nicco Marchiol.
Daniels has tons of pressure on his shoulders and he may very well be playing for his football career against Oklahoma. But leading WVU to its first Big 12 win over the Sooners, in what could be the last opportunity, could provide Daniels that moment fans can remember for years to come.