NORMAN — After a season-opening shutout of Louisiana-Monroe, Mike Stoops remains cautiously optimistic about this year's Oklahoma defense.
“We were a little more of a react team a year ago, and now we're probably attacking more, but still, it's a controlled attack scheme,” Stoops said. “It worked for a night, and certainly we'll get a better test this weekend with West Virginia. We'll see if we can hold them under 778. Hopefully we can do better than that.”
The number — representing the total offensive yards West Virginia recorded in the Sooners' narrow victory last November — clearly still eats at Stoops. It was the most yards ever allowed by an Oklahoma defense.
But if West Virginia comes even close to repeating that performance Saturday on Owen Field, where the teams meet in their Big 12 Conference opener, the 2013 version of this game might be just as humiliating, embarrassing and baffling as last year's.
These Mountaineers aren't those Mountaineers, whose ranks included superstars Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Geno Smith.
Austin recorded 572 all-purpose yards in last November's shootout with Oklahoma, coming just six yards short of the NCAA's single-game record.
“They're a totally different team than last year,” said senior running back Roy Finch. “They had great players on the offensive side like Tavon that can go toe to toe with us on the offensive side. I just feel like this is going to be more of a defensive game.”
West Virginia opened its 2013 season Saturday at home, where it needed a second-half rally to topple FBS foe William & Mary — a 3-9 squad last season — 24-17.
Mountaineers quarterback Paul Millard completed 19 of 25 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown in the win. It was the fewest pass attempts by a Dana Holgorsen quarterback since he became an NCAA Division I coach in 2000.
Millard doesn't look anything like Smith, who is now competing for the New York Jets' starting quarterback spot, and no one on this West Virginia roster appears capable of making plays like Austin and Bailey, now St. Louis Rams rookies.
Still, Mike Stoops talks like he's taking this West Virginia squad very seriously.
“I don't think you can judge much from the William & Mary game,” Stoops said. “They were very vanilla. They have a lot more offense than they showed in that game. It's a tough preparation. They worked us pretty good a year ago.”
Head coach Bob Stoops expressed similar thoughts about the Mountaineers' season opener, even using the same word — “vanilla” — to describe what they showed offensively.
“Dana, he has his ball plays that he stays with and they execute them well,” Bob Stoops said. “I know we won't see a vanilla scheme in what they're doing against us. It'll be different so we'll prepare for a lot of what we saw last year.”