Belated thoughts on a solid 45-33 win for the Oklahoma Sooners over the West Virginia Mountaineers:
*The last time these two teams tangled in Morgantown, it produced a memorable shootout that wasn’t decided until the final gun. Knotted at 24 at the half, this one looked headed that way.
This time, the second half showed what makes this OU team different from some of its more recent predecessors. I’ll spare everyone the rhetoric about leadership or character. The Sooners put away WVU by being more physical on both sides of the ball. On the defensive side of the ball, OU finally started getting some licks on WVU quarterback Clint Trickett, who was dealing during a first half in which he went almost unmolested in the pocket.
Meanwhile, the offensive line blew open holes for freshman Samaje Perine to batter Mountaineer tacklers. That took some of the pressure of the Sooners’ trigger man Trevor Knight and his wideouts.
*I wrote before the season started that OU’s capacity to pound the rock would put this squad in good shape to weather these games. Last night showed why. The Sooners kept the ball away from WVU’s potent offense and owned the possession battle by nearly eight minutes.
OU was typically running against a stacked box, which made the ground attack's production even more impressive.
*Allow me to describe the experience of facing West Virginia using an analogy that the Mountaineers’ head coach would appreciate.
It’s kinda like those blackjack hands where the dealer is showing a four and you end up somehow splitting eights three or four times. Even if you like your position, as you wait for the hand to play out, the likelihood of the situation either blowing up in your face or paying off spectacularly doesn’t feel much different.
I certainly wouldn’t classify Dana Holgorsen as a great head coach. However, both brilliance and disaster never really seem that far away when Holgo the Destroyer’s team is playing. His teams have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot, but he is one of the best when it comes to offensive scheming. He has the self-destructive mad scientist streak in him that Chris Brown wrote about in his comprehensive history of the Air Raid.
In that respect, you kind of have to allow that anything can happen when facing WVU. That’s how you get a first half like the one we saw over the weekend.
*Zack Sanchez appears to be taking plenty of heat from the peanut gallery over his play against WVU receiver Kevin White. Yes, he got roasted on White’s long touchdown catch in the first quarter. He missed some tackles. In the end, White (10 receptions, 173 yards, 1 TD) probably got the better of him.
Still, Sanchez is playing with basically one arm. Even if his tackling leaves something to be desired, he’s clearly OU’s best cover corner. If Mike Stoops thought Cortez Johnson, Jordan Thomas or Stanvon Taylor could do better against WRs like White and Mario alford, he’d play them. That should tell you that they can’t.
Frankly, I suspect the Sooners drop that game if Sanchez wasn’t out there.
*If you’re looking for one area of concern going forward, it should be the inconsistency of the receiving corps. Knight is shouldering most of the blame for his inaccuracy, but pass catchers not catching passes was more the culprit when the offense bogged down in the first half.
*Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel makes for a nice scapegoat – what offensive coordinator doesn’t – but rest assured that he’s not the one who put the quarterback running game on the shelf. That’s coming from the top.
It takes away some of the offense’s potency, but Knight is also fit as a fiddle right now. Sometimes you just have to accept the tradeoffs.