NORMAN — Oklahoma leads West Virginia 13-7 at halftime of both teams’ Big 12 Conference opener. Here’s some first-half thoughts, notes and statistics as we head into the third quarter.
(My apologies that this got posted after the third quarter began. I had some press-box Internet issues that prevented me from getting it up very quickly).
WHAT STOOD OUT
* Well, can’t blame a lack of linebackers for today’s long West Virginia touchdown run.
The Mountaineers’ Dreamius Smith took a handoff up the middle, broke tackles from linebacker Corey Nelson and safety Gabe Lynn before sprinting past the rest of Oklahoma’s defense for a 75-yard touchdown with 8:54 left in the first quarter.
* That play notwithstanding, Oklahoma’s defense has really played pretty well so far.
The exact opposite of what happened in last year’s 50-49 shootout in Morgantown is happening thus far in Norman — the defense is bailing out the offense after its mistakes.
With 9:52 left in the second quarter and OU leading 10-7, Lacoltan Bester caught a Trevor Knight pass and fought forward for a 32-yard gain to the WVU 18-yard line, but fumbled the ball away.
OU’s defense forced a quick three-and-out.
Then, a few plays after an impressive Jalen Saunders punt return, Knight was blindsided by West Virginia linebacker Brandon Golson and fumbled at West Virginia’s 38-yard line with 5:38 left in the half.
Again, OU’s defense forced a three-and-out. The Sooners took over with 4:09 left in the half and drove down the field, eventually settling for a Michael Hunnicutt field goal to take a 13-7 lead into halftime.
* Trevor Knight has again looked pretty erratic throwing the ball at times.
He’s 9 of 16 for 113 yards and a touchdown, but several of his throws have been off. But even more troubling? OU’s run game doesn’t look nearly as dominant as it did a week ago. The Sooners are only averaging 3.8 yards per rush (30 team carries for 115 yards).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THE SECOND HALF
* OU’s offensive line.
The unit hasn’t looked dominant the same way it did last week against Louisiana-Monroe, but it also took the offensive line a little time to wear ULM down. If the Sooners’ offensive line can start to wear down West Virginia’s defensive front, OU should be able to pull away in the second half. If not, OU could be in major trouble.
* OU’s tackling.
Again, the Sooners have played pretty well defensively for the most part. But on that 75-yard touchdown run, Nelson and Lynn missed what should’ve been routine tackles. They’re going to have to wrap up and make stops, because West Virginia has shown it’s clearly capable of making the Sooners pay if they don’t.
* Jalen Saunders’ punt returns.
Saunders has a couple decent punt returns so far, and looks like he might be just a step or two from breaking away for a special teams touchdown. Those kind of points would be huge, especially if the OU offense continues to struggle.
Offense: QB Trevor Knight; HB Roy Finch; TE Trey Millard; WR Jalen Saunders; WR Sterling Shepard; SL Brennan Clay; LT Daryl Williams; LG Adam Shead; C Gabe Ikard; RG Nila Kasitati; RT Tyrus Thompson.
Defense: DE Charles Tapper; DT Jordan Phillips; DE Geneo Grissom; LB Corey Nelson; LB Frank Shannon; LB Eric Striker; CB Aaron Colvin; FS Gabe Lynn; SS Quentin Hayes; NB Julian Wilson; CB Zack Sanchez.
HALFTIME STATISTICAL LEADERS
Passing — OU: Trevor Knight, 9-15, 113 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; WVU: Paul Millard, 7-13, 79 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT.
Rushing — OU: Damien Williams, 12-54 Trevor Knight 7-42; WVU: Dreamius Smith 2-76, 1 TD, Charles Sims 5-14.
Receiving — OU: Jalen Saunders 4-60, Lacoltan Bester 3-46; WVU: Ronald Carswell 1-33, Charles Sims, 2-26.
Tackles — OU: Corey Nelson 4, Charles Tapper 4; WVU: Nick Kwiatkoski 8, Darwin Cook 6.
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