Mountaineers’ Struggles Against Oklahoma Teams
Since joining the Big XII, the Mountaineers’ have not fared well against teams from Oklahoma. As of Saturday morning, West Virginia won only two games out of 15 against the Sooners and Cowboys. They have won only one of seven attempts in Morgantown. So precedence certainly did not favor the Mountaineers this weekend. In his second straight start against a ranked team, Jarret Doege looked to change that history. But the Mountaineers’ struggles against Oklahoma teams continue.
West Virginia missed a few opportunities early. Staley pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide. A touchdown strike to Sam James was called down inside the 1. Then, Doege couldn’t convert two straight keepers. Michael Brown committed an offside penalty, and the offense couldn’t convert. As a result, West Virginia settled for a field goal. But on their fourth drive, Doege connected with his roommate George Campbell, hitting him in stride for a 34-yard touchdown to take a 10-7 lead.
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) November 23, 2019
Through the half, the defense showed grit holding Oklahoma State to three punts in three straight drives. And despite a threatening Cowboy offense on the third of those drives, the Mountaineers held strong after a big sack from Shea Campbell. And on the final drive of the half, the Mountaineers’ Dante and Darius Stills created two negative plays to eliminate any chance of the Cowboys going into the half with momentum.
Through the half, the Mountaineers held Chuba Hubbard to just 39 rushing yards on 11 carries. Importantly, they also won the time of possession battle by over two minutes. The Mountaineers held the Cowboys to under 120 yards in the first half, Oklahoma State’s lowest first-half total this season, by a wide margin.
The Cowboys knotted the game at ten with a field goal in their opening drive of the second half. Then, the Cowboys’ defense buckled down and held the Mountaineers to two punts and a field goal over its next three drives. After finally finding some room against West Virginia’s zone, the Cowboys scored on two straight fourth-quarter drives to take a 20-13 lead with six minutes left in the game.
Led by Doege, the Mountaineers challenged the Cowboys’ defense and drove easily into the red zone on the ensuing drive. But the Cowboys forced the Mountaineers to into a fourth and long situation after a pass bounced off T.J. Simmons’ chest on third down. And the Cowboys brought pressure to force the incompletion on the play. Head Coach Neal Brown was forced to use an extra time out on the play. That allowed the Cowboys to take a knee and let the clock expire.
Through the game, Doege really commanded the offense and looked the part of West Virginia’s quarterback for the next couple of seasons. And his receivers corralled the football, only dropping a few passes instead of the half dozen average they’ve maintained to date. Doege spread the ball well, highlighting the sheer volume of young, solid receivers the Mountaineers should return next season.
But the offensive line still could not create space for the backs in the second half, making the Mountaineers one-dimensional down the stretch. To highlight the issue, the Mountaineers distributed run and pass plays evenly in the first half, but dialed up twelve more passes in the second half. They finished the game averaging just 1.2 yards per carry.
The defense held a potent Cowboys’ offense well throughout the game. Led primarily by underclassmen, that unit also held the most productive back in the country, to 106 yards, over 70 below his season average. Unfortunately, despite that defense the Mountaineers’ struggles against Oklahoma teams continue.
The Mountaineers’ young squad may hold a 4-7 record going into its finale with TCU next weekend. But they also own four losses that were truly decided by a half dozen plays or less. Despite the stumble, then, it looks like the climb Brown has asked fans to trust remains very real. Breaks tend to fall in favor of veteran teams, and the Mountaineers should return a seasoned team on both sides of the ball, barring any unexpected attrition of this season’s contributors.