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Missing starters aren't to blame
Their absence didn't play a part in lopsided loss

By Jake Trotter Modified: January 3, 2008 at 1:07 am •  Published: January 3, 2008
GLENDALE, Ariz. — All week, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops downplayed the loss of defensive starters DeMarcus Granger, Lendy Holmes and Reggie Smith.

Turns out, he was right.

Not even those three would've made a difference in the outcome of the Fiesta Bowl as West Virginia's offense dominated in a 48-28 victory Wednesday night.

"They beat us across the board,” cornerback Marcus Walker said. "I don't even think those three could've helped us tonight.”

Walker was right.

Even with Granger, Holmes and Smith, OU would've lost to the Mountaineers.

That's how good West Virginia's offensive performance was.

The 525 yards of total offense were the most allowed by a Sooner defense since 1999.

West Virginia's 48 points were the most given up since Southern California dropped off 55 in the 2004 season Orange Bowl.

"To some degree (we missed those guys),” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "At the same time, it still comes down to basic fundamentals. You've got to get off blocks up front. You've still got to tackle. We let them get some big plays.”

The Mountaineers' dominance was underscored late in the third quarter and early in the fourth when they produced 222 yards over five consecutive plays on gains of 42, 30, 79, 5 and 66 — three of which ended in touchdowns.

Against the Sooners, West Virginia produced its two longest runs and its longest pass in the school's bowl history.

"Playing with those three starters, playing without those three starters, we got beat,” safety Nic Harris said. "It was a collective effort. We didn't tackle and we didn't make the plays.

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