NORMAN, Okla.--It’s been one of the few instances where Oklahoma players are willing to talk about last year.
“[We] definitely still think about last year,” Sooners safety Gabe Lynn said. “It was just horrible on our part. Giving up almost 800 yards on defense is ridiculous. We definitely are excited about this game.”
Ridiculous is the perfect word.
The Sooners gave up 778 offensive yards to West Virginia in the OU’s 50-49 win in Morgantown, W. Va., last season. Tavon Austin looked like a man among boys while running around, between and right by the Sooners defense on his way to 572 all-purpose yards, including 344 rushing yards.
Fortunately for the Sooners, Austin now calls St. Louis home, but the mastermind of that offensive outburst, Dana Holgorsen, will be on the sidelines when the Mountaineers visit Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
OU’s defense showed signs that things might have changed in its season-opening 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe. The Sooners looked aggressive and disruptive while allowing just 166 total yards against the Warhawks.
West Virginia’s first game was a different story. The Mountaineers didn’t tip their hand offensively and almost paid for it, escaping with a 24-17 win over William and Mary. Quarterback Paul Millard was 19-of-25 for 237 yards and one touchdown but WVU struggled on clutch situations, converting only 2 of 10 third down attempts.
Even though the Mountaineers offense was low-scoring in Week 1, the Sooners are expecting things to be different on Saturday as WVU starts to throw in the offensive wrinkles that have made Holgorsen successful for the past few seasons.
“They really didn’t show a lot,” nickelback Julian Wilson said. “But we know what they did last year and we know what they did to our defense last year so really we’re going in there with a chip on our shoulder and trying to play a better game than we did.”
Expect the Sooners to have new wrinkles of their own as they come up with ways to slow Holgorsen's offense. This year's defense is much more versatile, allowing Mike Stoops to come up with a creative plan of attack this week.
Even if the Sooners’ defense comes up with a better performance against the Mountaineers this season, OU still needs to work out the kinks that caused its offense to sputter in the season opener. Quarterback Trevor Knight rushed for 103 yards and passed for three touchdowns but just 85 yards through the air. That won’t get it done against a Big 12 Conference foe that promises to put some points on the board.
“He probably just had a few jitters,” center Gabe Ikard said. “It was his first game out there. We fully expect him to perform even better than he did last week and use his arm, throw all the throws we have seen him make in practice and continue to use his legs as a weapon.”