A year ago, Oklahoma might have turned Saturday’s game against West Virginia into some kind of gut-punch loss.
It’s easy to see the 2014 Sooners collapsing under the heat being applied by the Mountaineers in the second half of Saturday’s game. The 2015 squad, however, didn’t panic after seeing a 17-point halftime lead over the ‘Eers cut to three with time winding down in the third quarter. A quarter later, OU was going home with a comfortable win.
OU definitely played ragged ball for stretches against WVU, which probably won’t sit any better with OU’s coaches than it did with an antsy Sooner Nation during the game. Even so, the team had a fairly sharp first half and put the clamps down on the visitors in the fourth en route to a 20-point victory over a well-regarded team.
We’re still waiting to see OU play well on both sides of the ball for a full game. The Sooners did show flickers Saturday of how good they could be if they do develop some consistency.
*I’d argue we just witnessed the best performance of linebacker Eric Striker’s career in the Crimson and Cream. The stats were superb (13 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble), but it was more than that.
Striker consistently worked over the WVU offensive line and terrorized quarterback Skyler Howard from start to finish. He made multiple game-changing plays, capped off by a strip-sack in the fourth quarter that linebacker Jordan Evans returned for a game-sealing score.
*The flow of OU’s offense threw me for a loop. I figured that Lincoln Riley would be more cautious in going after WVU’s touted secondary, but OU didn’t hesitate to challenge Karl Joseph and Co. early and often.
Baker Mayfield flubbed a few throws in the second half, but he generally read coverages well and punished the ‘Eers for coming after him. He connected on a handful of deep balls against single coverage and eluded the oncoming rush often enough to keep the offense moving.
All in all, the Texas Tech transfer just keeps on rolling.
*Wideouts Durron Neal and Michiah Quick appear to be back in the coaches’ good graces.
Quick felt like somewhat of a forgotten man in the receiver rotation, but he saw time right off the bat. He made the most of his targets, burning WVU for long gains (3 receptions, 69 yards).
Meanwhile, OU badly needed Neal’s 71-yard TD reception at the end of the third quarter. It stopped the bleeding as the ‘Eers mounted their comeback. (Props to Riley for having stones to call that, by the way.)
*Sign of how strange this game was: OU outgained WVU despite running nearly 30 fewer offensive plays. Efficient, I guess.
*On first viewing, Matt Dimon (8 tackles, 1 TFL) showed out on defense. Similarly, Jordan Thomas showed why he has such a high ceiling at cornerback.
*Austin Seibert continues to impress in both facets of the kicking game.
*I keep waiting for OU’s running game to show some signs of life, but they’re not coming. To be fair, I’ll happily trade some of OU’s potent ground game from last season for an O that has a greater degree of competency throwing the ball.
Even so, between the newcomers on the offensive line and the shift in the scheme, every rushing attempt feels like an adventure. I don’t see that changing soon.
*The Mountaineers and Sooners were treated to the officiating stylings of referee Alan Eck’s crew. That would be the same group who left Texas fans up in arms last week after what some decried as an obvious bias against the Longhorns.
This week, the zebras threw a combined 23 flags and doled out triple-digit penalty yardage to both teams. My personal favorite was dinging OU for an illegal wedge on a kickoff return.
Frankly, I think this particular set of officials just can’t keep their flags in their pants.