Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

September 6, 2013

Sooners don’t want to repeat Morgantown failures

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.

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