Mountaineer fans entered tonight’s game blissfully optimistic about the outcome. Rumors of a shootout, despite the last two meetings’ 111-70 Oklahoma out-scoring, had been flying all week. As the 2-1 Mountaineers prepared to open Big 12 Conference play against the No. 4, undefeated Oklahoma Sooner team, tensions were high. All of the stats favored the Sooners. WVU head coach Neal Brown was entering Norman, Ok. on an 0-5 road loss streak. The Mountaineer football team hadn’t won in Norman since 1982.
Even still, the WVU offense came bursting out of the gates at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Jarret Doege started the game at quarterback, but was quickly replaced by redshirt freshman quarterback Garrett Greene. The rushing QB, who we expected to see at some point during this game, came in during the first drive of the game. He was quickly replaced by Doege two plays later, who then converted a 4th and 4 with a pass to Bryce Ford-Wheaton. Greene re-entered the game with a hand off to senior running back Leddie Brown for seven yards. Greene got antsy after that, running a nine-yard quarterback keep up the middle to Oklahoma’s two-yard line. Greene maintained his poise as he lined up again. With two yards between him and the first Mountaineer points on the board, he elected to keep the ball and rush the remaining yardage, much to the excitement of the WVU fans in attendance in Norman. With 5:33 remaining in the first quarter, a solid 17-play drive, and a Casey Legg extra point, found WVU leading OU 7-0.
Oklahoma, foaming at the mouth to get their fair share of points on the board, sent Heisman Trophy candidate Spencer Rattler out. Only seven plays later, he had moved the Sooner offense down inside the red zone. The WVU secondary, which leads the nation in red zone defense, dropped its collective guard and allowed Rattler the opportunity to send a pass toward junior tight end Austin Stogner. The five-yard pass ended up with Stogner in the end zone and a tie on the scoreboard with 5:53 left in the first quarter. Those remaining six minutes ticked by quickly, as Doege solidified his Ford-Wheaton connection with a five-yard pass. On 3rd and 2, Doege chose to rush, and the passing quarterback converted a third down with his six-yard rush to the OU 49. The first quarter wound to a close with WVU on 3rd and 14.
When the second quarter opened, Doege kicked it off with a ghastly ball intercepted up the sideline by Sooner Dellarin Turner-Yell. For as solid as the Sooner defense looked, the Mountaineer secondary took the field and immediately lit the place up. In its previous three games, the Sooners had only punted four times; after Rattler rattled off a 10-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Mario Williams and a 3-yard pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Jadon Haselwood, the Sooners were still at 4th and 5. The team sent special teams out, including punter Michael Turk, who hit a 52-yarder to switch field position. This was only the Sooners’ fifth punt on the season. When West Virginia received the ball at its own nine-yard-line. A quick, ineffective set of WVU downs later, Mountaineer redshirt senior punter Tyler Sumpter cleared a 48-yard punt of his own.
When Oklahoma got the ball back, only a few plays later, they added another negative to tonight’s stats: Spencer Rattler’s second 2021 sack. Redshirt junior linebacker Exree Loe recorded his first sack of the season, a loss of two yards. The WVU defense once more forced this Oklahoma offensive front to send Turk back out. The result: a 53 yard punt. At this point, the WVU defense was living rent-free in Rattler’s head. He was steadily losing his composure, and it showed. Jackie Matthews, who made a name for himself against Virginia Tech with a huge fourth quarter stop at the two-yard-line, came down on 2nd and 3 with a Rattler interception, his third of 2021. Redshirt freshman cornerback Daryl Porter Jr. caused the deflection to fall right into Matthews’ outstretched arms. Now, not only was the WVU defense putting a solid front up to his advances, Rattler also had to hear his own student cheering section chanting for Oklahoma QB2, true freshman Caleb Williams.
Doege strung together a few good hand offs to Brown for short-yardage spurts, but the Mountaineers were having an issue sending Brown up the middle, the same play that had worked seamlessly in the first quarter.
Sumpter was sent to punt once more. His 44-yard punt sailed over the heads of his teammates, opening up the run to Oklahoma. The Sooners couldn’t capitalize though, even allowing Rattler to tally another sack, this time at the hands of redshirt junior defensive lineman Taijh Alston. He forced a fourth down scenario with that clutch sack, and Oklahoma opted for yet another Turk 53-yard punt. With that choice, the Sooners allowed WVU to easily tack on three additional punt situations to the three previous games’ four.
As the first half wound to a close, the Mountaineer offense was stringing meaningful plays together. Doege found both Ford-Wheaton and Wright Jr. for positive yardage, 10 yards and 28 yards, respectively. The WVU offense converted its second fourth down scenario with ease, as Doege rushed the two yards. Still, they couldn’t advance enough. Legg kicked a 25-yard field goal to put the Mountaineers up 10-7 heading into halftime.
In the first half, WVU held the Sooners to just 91 total yards, while they tacked on 164.
The third quarter opened with strong Rattler offensive movement, as the Sooners chipped their way down the field in 10 plays, converting three first downs. Gabe Brkic tacked on the first Oklahoma field goal from 28 yards out, tying the score again at 10. The third quarter became a field goal shootout, as the Mountaineers, who employed both Doege and Greene on the drive, battled back to the Oklahoma one-yard-line. With another touchdown within reach, the Mountaineer offensive line showed its immaturity; redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Parker Moorer jumped early, pushing the line of scrimmage back to the four-yard-line. Doege’s pass to Ford-Wheaton fell incomplete, and WVU opted to tack three Casey Legg points on instead of risking it. Legg’s 21-yard field goal sailed through the uprights, pushing the WVU lead back to three, 13-10.
The Mountaineers continued to pound at head coach Lincoln Riley’s offense, bearing down hard on Rattler. Alston burst through the Sooner line, hitting Rattler into the turf for the second time tonight and causing a one-yard loss. WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley’s defense stopped a Sooner rush six plays later, which stood at 4th and 1, when redshirt sophomore linebacker Lance Dixon and BANDIT Jared Bartlett combined for a tackle of Oklahoma redshirt junior running back Kennedy Brooks.
The two teams closed the third quarter at 13-10.
When Doege took the field again, he spent an entire series of downs throwing incomplete lobs at Sam James and Winston Wright Jr., to no avail. He seemed rushed and uncertain, and it showed. Sumpter was forced to punt again on 4th and 7 at the 47, this time a 47-yard bomb for a touchback. WVU continued to lead the Sooners 13-10.
The fourth quarter saw a 14-play Oklahoma advancement, moving from its own 45 yard line to inside the Mountaineer 20. The Mountaineers added a fourth sack of Rattler as Dante Stills took him down on 1st and 20 at the 28. It didn’t slow Rattler’s connection speed though, as he promptly connected with senior wide receiver Michael Woods twice in a row to move the ball 14 yards closer, ending at the WVU 18. Brkic kicked a 35-yard field goal and suddenly, the score was tied for the third time, this time at 13.
From there, the Mountaineer wheels began to fall off. Doege completed a 13-yard pass to Ford-Wheaton to advance the ball to the WVU 27. The Mountaineers caught a break when, the next play, Oklahoma got called for a roughing the passer penalty. The chains moved from the WVU 40 to the OU 45, helping WVU over the midline. A Brown three-yard rush and another Doege to Ford-Wheaton 11-yard connection served fruitful, but still, WVU couldn’t move far enough. Then, the worst happened. WVU sophomore center Zach Frazier’s snap back to Doege flew wide of his hands, sailing 21 yards behind the shotgun formation. Although Doege fell on the fumbled snap, it put the Mountaineer offense in a terrible position at its own 46. Sumpter punted again, back to the Oklahoma eight-yard-line, but the relinquishing of what should have been a solid set of offensive downs put the Mountaineers at a sever disadvantage. One that they couldn’t recover from.
The Sooners drove down the field, inside the red zone. Although WVU’s defense played like a top red zone defense, it wasn’t enough to quell the Oklahoma momentum. Rattler completed six passes, moving the ball from his own eight-yard-line to the WVU 34 before WVU self-sabotaged one more time. Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Jordan Jefferson jumped offsides, pushing his Mountaineer secondary back five yards, easily within Brkic’s field goal range. A one-yard rush from Oklahoma junior running back Eric Gray forced the Sooner field position down to the 16, but it didn’t end there. WVU sophomore nose tackle Akheem Mesidor, who had played a lights-out game up to this point, cost the Mountaineers eight yards from a face mask penalty on Gray. It was the cherry on top of a messy fourth quarter, and it moved the ball down inside the Mountaineer ten-yard-line. Brkic, who had been 16-0 from the 20-yard-line, rocketed a field goal between the uprights as the final seconds expired on this Saturday night, primetime match-up.
No. 4 Oklahoma added a fourth season victory, and WVU was dealt its second loss. WVU also only added three second half points to a measly second half scoring drought through the previous three games. This WVU offense has only found nine second half points against FBS teams this season. Brown extended his road loss record to 0-6, and the Mountaineer-Sooner record now moved to 11-2. WVU will be antsy to get home for a Stripe the Stadium and Homecoming game against Texas Tech next week, on Oct. 2 at 3:30 p.m.