It’s amazing how much can change in just one week. The conversation about Neal Brown and WVU football leading up to the Oklahoma game was that maybe they are actually climbing somewhere, but that’s now flipped entirely again in the aftermath of West Virginia’s blowout loss to the Sooners.
Everyone knows the Mountaineers didn’t play well, and that means both the offense and the defense. However, that same team that looked so bad in Norman has played much better in other games this season and dots can be connected in terms of common opponents to make that confusing. For example, WVU beat Texas Tech and the Red Raiders beat Kansas, a team who beat Oklahoma. Upsets happen and the Big 12 has been cannibalizing itself this season, but Brown’s frustration believing his team can play better is legitimate too.
It’s also not so much that West Virginia lost to an Oklahoma team that has tons of top recruits and has been ranked all year, but how they lost, that bothers most fans. The result is the result though, and has allowed us to lean more about this team.
Garrett Greene Still Has Work to Do
The Mountaineers got beat in every phase of the game by an Oklahoma team that had lost back-to-back games prior to facing WVU. And after praising Garrett Greene in recent weeks for his overall play, especially since returning from an injury over a month ago, Brown made it clear his quarterback did not have anything close to his best day in Norman.
And Greene’s rough night showed that, while he has matured as a leader and can make the offense explosive, he is still doing some things common with young quarterbacks. He can have a tenancy to get stuck on the first read and not look at the entire field. He spent most of the game misfiring or overthrowing receivers, although to be fair the receivers dropped some balls and didn’t do him any favors either.
For as good as Garrett Greene has been recently, he's been that bad in this game. WVU has no chance in any game if this is how Greene plays.
— Mike J. Asti (@MikeAsti11) November 12, 2023
Greene completed only 10 out of 37 pass attempts for just 154 yards. He did throw two touchdown passes, but also thew a costly interception. Greene only added 24 yards on the ground. He didn’t play the type of smart football Brown is always harping about.
“Offensively if you look at it, Garrett really struggled after that first Drive in the first and second quarter – didn’t play like himself. They beat us up front, especially a thought after our first initial drive there in the first second quarter, where the game got away from us a little bit. They got after us up front, that’s really the first time it’s been done all year,” said Brown.
The Defense Can be Exposed
Back when Greene was hurt and the offense was struggling to move the ball, it was the defense leading West Virginia to wins. Without those wins, the Mountaineers would not already be bowl eligible and might even be in the midst of firing their head coach. But with all of that said, it’s been evident the defense is also vulnerable and can be exposed by a quality offense.
Oklahoma exposed the defense in every possible way. The secondary had no chance in any one-on-one battle and missed grabbing interceptions. Dillon Gabriel’s quick release made life hell for the pass rush and the defensive line failed to come close to containing the run game. It almost felt like Oklahoma could’ve blown out West Virginia without even throwing a pass. That’s how effective they were on the ground, especially Gavin Sawchuk who averaged 6.1 yards per rush for a total of 135 yards. Gabriel also added 50 yards of his own.
We’ve seen games like this from the defense before, most notably in the worst loss of the season against Houston. But watching the Sooners basically hold a practice over another major conference program during a big game, the issues of the defense popped out more than ever before.
And yes, the defense could turn it around and show up against the likes of Cincinnati and Baylor, maybe even in the bowl game too. However, stellar play from this defense doesn’t seem possible against a great offense.
What Happened to Elite Offensive Line?
WVU’s veteran offensive line lost the battle of the trenches. Yes, you read that right. That’s a sentence you don’t often see anyone write. The experience of the offensive line was the main thing that Brown brought up when explaining why he his team would prove doubters wrong before the season.
And while no unit on any team is ever going to be perfect, the offensive line has been a driving force for the Mountaineers this season. Obviously, a run heavy team needs its offensive line to be at its best. And it surely wasn’t in Norman. The weirdest thing about that game being the worst performance for the line is that it was at full strength for the first time in weeks.
It is fair to note that Greene was not sacked and West Virginia did manage to put up some yards on the ground, but anyone who watched the game will tell you that Oklahoma’s defensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage all night long.
Unfortunately for Brown an his team, there’s nothing they can do about what took place in Oklahoma now. In fact, it’s very likely West Virginia may never get another opportunity at the Sooners again.
All that can be done at this point is to try to regroup and truly provide proof that the program is climbing in the right direction by winning. WVU has two very winnable games remaining on the schedule.
The Mountaineers will play at home for the last time in 2023 against Cincinnati next Saturday and then end the regular season on the road at Baylor.
Watch the WV Sports Now WVU football postgame show from after the game.
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