NORMAN — Brennan Clay helped Oklahoma overcome its spotty passing game.
The senior running back had a career-high 170 yards rushing as Oklahoma switched quarterbacks in the second half and still beat West Virginia 16-7 on Saturday night.
The No. 16 Sooners (2-0, 1-0 Big 12) scored the game’s final 16 points after trailing 7-0 in the first quarter. Freshman quarterback Trevor Knight threw a pair of third-quarter interceptions, leading to junior Blake Bell taking over in the fourth quarter.
Clay finished with 22 carries, leading an Oklahoma offense that had 316 yards rushing and topping his previous best of 157 yards rushing against Iowa State in 2012.
Paul Millard was 21-of-42 passing for 218 yards for the Mountaineers (1-1, 0-1), whose lone score came on a 75-yard touchdown run by Dreamius Smith in the first quarter.
The game was anything but the offensive showcase the two teams put on last season, when they combined for 1,440 yards of total offense in a 50-49 Oklahoma win.
Of course, the Sooners had four-year starter Landry Jones at quarterback in that game, and West Virginia featured the offensive trio of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
Both teams entered this season featuring new quarterbacks, with Knight winning a preseason competition with Bell and Millard taking over for Smith after beating out transfer Clint Trickett. Knight struggled throwing the ball in last week’s 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe, but he ran for 103 yards, and Millard threw for 237 yards in a 24-17 come-from-behind win over William and Mary.
Neither starter looked comfortable throwing the ball through three quarters, when they were a combined 25-of-52 passing for 288 yards — and three interceptions.
Knight threw two of those interceptions, both in the third quarter during a stretch where the two teams combined for four of the game’s eight turnovers. The freshman’s first interception ended an Oklahoma drive that had reached the West Virginia 5, and his second came after the Sooners’ defense had intercepted Millard.
Following two more scoreless drives by Oklahoma, Sooners coach Bob Stoops replaced Knight with Bell on the team’s opening drive of the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-6, 263-pound junior, mostly known for running Oklahoma’s goal-line Belldozer offense last season as Jones’ backup, had a 10-yard run on his first play — leading the Sooners on a drive that resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Mike Hunnicutt to extend the lead to 16-7.
Bell only attempted one pass, throwing an incompletion, while finishing with 21 yards rushing on two carries.
Oklahoma, however, didn’t need his arm to win as long as they had Clay and Damien Williams, who finished with 95 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Knight finished 10-of-20 passing for 119 yards before being pulled in favor of Bell. He threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Trey Millard in the second quarter to give the Sooners a 10-7 lead, but he was only 1-of-5 passing in the second half.
West Virginia, which had to outscored William and Mary 17-0 in the second half last week to come away with a 24-17 win, led early after Smith’s touchdown run. The junior escaped a pair of would-be Oklahoma tacklers in the middle of the field before sprinting down the left sideline for the 75-yard run and giving the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead.
That was all the scoring, however, for West Virginia — which lost three fumbles to go along with Millard’s interception.