By JOHN SHINN
Recollections from Oklahoma’s last meeting with West Virginia vary. Some call it one of the most thrilling games they’ve been a part of. Others just drop their heads when the topic comes up.
In the Sooners’ case, it all depends on whether your job was to score points or prevent them. The 50-49 victory was a polarizing topic this week.
Offensive players remember the game-winning drive.
“I just remember we were taking our time and I was kind of thinking out on the field, ‘What are we doing?’ But about midway through, I realized we were going to go score and run this clock out,” OU center Gabe Ikard said. “Their offense was rolling and we were rolling. We were just trying to have the ball last so they wouldn’t have an opportunity. I just remember being very, very happy that we scored.”
OU did with 24 seconds left. Just enough to keep the Mountaineers from finding the end zone one last time.
Defensive players cannot forget the school-record 778 yards they allowed that night, or the fact they gave up three fourth-quarter touchdown drives that took less than 122 seconds.
“I definitely still think about last year,” OU safety Gabe Lynn said. “It was horrible on our part, giving up almost 800 yards. That’s ridiculous. We definitely are excited about this year.”
The game may still come down to a final drive, but don’t expect the same offensive shootout to commence when the 16th-ranked Sooners (1-0) face the Mountaineers (1-0) at 6 tonight at Owen Field in the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams.
So much has changed in the nearly 10 months since they last met.
Many offensive stars from that game are now professionals. Landry Jones threw the ball 51 times that night, his last a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills on OU’s last play. Both are in the NFL.
In their place, the Sooners have installed an offense more committed to running the ball, chewing up clock and keeping their defense fresh.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith threw for 320 yards. Wide receiver Stedman Bailey was the recipient of 205 of those receiving yards. Tavon Austin rushed for 344 yards and averaged 16.3 yards per carry. They’ll be on NFL rosters Sunday.
The offense the Mountaineers showed in their 24-17 victory over William & Mary bore little resemblance to what they brought to last year’s shootout.
Then again, OU considers that be a ruse. The Sooners have competed against West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen long enough to know he’ll bring the total package into tonight’s contest.
“I know how Dana runs his offense, he’s not going to change offenses regardless of who’s in it,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.
But the Sooners have changed, and last week’s 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe proved they’re a different team than last season.
The Sooners are committed to the running game. Defensive changes, influenced by last season’s failure at Morgantown, are the new norm.
The first result was promising. The second will come tonight.
The personnel may have changed, but the Sooners can’t forget which team marched all over them last season.
“It hurt, I’m not gonna lie. For us to give up those kind of numbers to a team like that,” cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great team and their coaches do a great job of putting them in the right situation, but as far as the defense, especially here at the University of Oklahoma, it’s not acceptable.”
Tonight, OU can make it right.
West Virginia at No. 16 Oklahoma
Time: 6 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports.
Radio: KMOD, FM-97.5.
Records: OU 1-0; West Virginia 1-0.
Line: Oklahoma by 20 1/2.
Series record: Oklahoma leads 3-2
At stake: The winner of the first Big 12 game of the season will get a leg up in the conference race. Oklahoma wants to learn if its defense is as good as it seemed in a season-opening 34-0 romp over Louisiana-Monroe, the Sooners’ first shutout since the 2010 season. West Virginia is hoping its typically freewheeling offense isn’t as sluggish as it appeared when the Mountaineers trailed by 10 points at halftime before rallying by William & Mary 24-17
Key matchup: Oklahoma’s defense began a late-season swoon last season at West Virginia, giving up a school-record 778 yards to the Mountaineers, albeit in a 50-49 win. The Sooners remember that game and see their matchup against West Virginia as a sort of measuring stick. Will the changes made by Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops be enough to offset the game plan developed by the Mountaineers’ coach and offensive mastermind, Dana Holgorsen? Even without Geno Smith and Tavon Austin — who ran wild over the Sooners last season — can West Virginia again pile up the yards and points?
Notes: West Virginia’s last visit to Norman came in 1982, when quarterback Jeff Hostetler passed for 321 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers to a 41-27 upset of No. 9 Oklahoma . The win over Louisiana-Monroe was No. 150 in Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops’ career. He became the sixth-fastest major-college coach to reach 150 wins, having done so in 187 games . Landry Jones’ touchdown pass to Kenny Stills with 24 seconds left last season lifted Oklahoma past the Mountaineers in Morgantown . Oklahoma kicker Nick Hodgson booted seven kickoffs for touchbacks against Louisiana-Monroe.