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Keys to Victory: WVU Must Be at Absolute Best to Beat Oklahoma



WVU Football Nicco Marchiol, CJ Donaldson, Devin Carter CJ helmet off

WVU and Oklahoma have the exact same record in Big 12 play. West Virginia is coming off their best two performances of the season. Oklahoma is reeling and on the heel of back-to-back losses. But despite all of that, the Sooners are considered a heavy favorite when the two programs meet for the last time a conference foes.

And while there’s reason for the Mountaineers to be confident right now and feel they can beat Oklahoma, just like a worse WVU team did last season, doing so in Norman won’t be easy.

What can lead Neal Brown to his second win over the Sooners and even some revenge for falling just short two years ago?

Don’t Miss Out on Turnovers

One major difference between the 5-7 West Virginia team that failed to reach bowl eligibility and the 2023 version that has already ensured a postseason with three games left to play is the defense has been able to generate takeaways. In most of WVU’s wins this season, the defense has been able to flip the field and help the offense by creating turnovers.

And no player has fueled the effort in securing turnovers more than transfers edition Beanie Bishop. With four picks so far on the season, Bishop actually ranks among the best for interceptions in the country. On top of Bishop’s impact, the WVU defense leads the nation in ball-hawk rate, which calculates plays on the ball. That stat shows the aggressive nature of Jordan Lesley’s defense, but it also shows there have been missed opportunities too.

Why Neal Brown Isn’t Thrilled WVU Defense Leads Nation in Ball-Hawk Rate

To beat a team as talented as the Sooners are, the Mountaineers can’t afford to literally drop the ball if a chance at securing a turnover happens. Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel has thrown a pick in each of his team’s losses, making catching at least one pick a necessity in a path to a win.

It’s not just about interceptions ether. Fumbles will surely do too. And no player embodies aggressive energy more than linebacker Lee Kpogba. This is a game he needs to play with his proverbial hair on fire to try to force a fumble.

WVU Needs Garrett Greene’s Best

Brown has made a point to say Garrett Greene is why West Virginia has been so completive this season. And he’s absolutely right. Greene has been playing at a high level since returning to action from an ankle injury. But even though Greene has become a true leader and delivers an explosiveness the offense was missing without him, he still does have a tendency to try to do too much at times or let his emotions get the best of him.

Neal Brown on Garrett Greene: ‘We Got a Shot Every Week Because of Him’

Greene’s “never say die” attitude is easy to root for, but it does have a downside. This is a game WVU will need big plays from Greene, and they will come, but they can’t come in conjunction with costly mistakes. Oklahoma’s defense is vulnerable, but their offense will score.

Greene recently said he’s a much better player than he was when he lead the Mountaineers to the program’s first win over the Sooners since joining the Big 12 last season. He now needs to prove it. Another win over Oklahoma, and this one on the road in very possibly the last meeting between the two schools, will make Greene a legend WVU fans won’t ever forget.

Mountaineers Must Control Clock, Get Ground Game Going Early

When the WVU offense is at its best, it’s clicking on the ground above all else. West Virginia has to get the run game going early. Success on the ground will open the passing game for Greene and company.

Fortunately for WVU, CJ Donaldson is all the way back to his old self and freshman sensation Jahiem White is coming off a break out game. Brown and offensive coordinator Chad Scott have alluded to the interest in getting them both on the field at the same time. If all goes right and according to that plan, a struggling Oklahoma defense may be in for a long night in front of a frustrated crowd.

The rubber will meet the road under the lights at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 7 pm ET and the game will be televised on FOX.

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