NORMAN — Last November in Morgantown, Oklahoma's offense repeatedly saved its defensive counterparts, embarrassing series after embarrassing series, in a high-scoring shootout with West Virginia.
The exact opposite was true Saturday night on Owen Field, where Oklahoma's sputtering offense turned the ball over four times inside West Virginia's 35-yard line, starting quarterback Trevor Knight was replaced to loud cheers early in the fourth quarter and the Sooners still managed to escape with a 16-7 victory in their Big 12 Conference opener.
Each time the Sooner offense made a critical mistake, the defense bailed it out with a timely turnover or a three-and-out.
“Some of the red-zone turnovers, they went right out and forced a three-and-out,” said OU coach Bob Stoops. “That was big. That's showing some attitude, as opposed to being down about it, they know they have to go do their job and get off the field.”
The Sooners (2-0, 1-0 Big 12) host Tulsa next week, and then have a bye before a Sept. 28 trip to Notre Dame that looms even larger after Saturday's struggles against the Mountaineers (1-1, 0-1 Big 12).
Oklahoma appeared ready several times to pull away from West Virginia, but a series of careless mistakes allowed the Mountaineers to hang around.
With 9:52 left in the second quarter and the Sooners leading 10-7, Lacoltan Bester caught a pass from Knight and fought forward for a 32-yard gain to West Virginia's 18-yard line before fumbling the ball away.
OU's defense forced a quick three-and-out.
Jalen Saunders gained 17 yards on a punt return, giving Oklahoma good field position with eight minutes remaining before halftime. The Sooners marched to West Virginia's 31-yard line before West Virginia linebacker Brandon Golson blindsided Knight in the pocket, forcing another costly turnover.