WVU football: Oklahoma tossed surprising shutout
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The opening weekend of the season saw Football Championship Subdivision teams beat reigning Big 12 champion Kansas State and Iowa State and put a scare into West Virginia. The most surprising score might have been a ranked team winning with a shutout at home.
Yet No. 16 Oklahoma's 34-0 victory against Louisiana-Monroe was nevertheless alarming. The Warhawks were named co-favorites to win the competitive Sun Belt conference. Eight starters on offense are back from the team that beat Arkansas and only lost to Auburn and Baylor by a combined eight points last season and quarterback Kolton Browning was named the preseason offensive player of the year.
The Sooners, who host WVU (1-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Fox, held the Warhawks to 166 yards of offense and nine first downs on just 61 plays.
"Everyone talked about how this was their year compared to a year ago because they're more mature, and I do respect Louisiana-Monroe as an offensive team, so it was pleasing to play so well," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "What I was really pleased about was how our communication and our adjustments and all of that for the most part were as good as we've had in a long time.
"We had very few mistakes and communication problems and adjustment problems and those kind of things. The players did a great job of being where they needed to be."
Oklahoma had major defensive problems late last season. They allowed 458 yards rushing and 778 yards of offense in a 50-49 win against WVU, 490 yards and 48 points in a three-point win against Oklahoma State and 327 yards passing and 307 yards rushing in a 41-13 loss to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
"They made some changes, unfortunately for us," Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said.
"They had a tremendous amount of speed on the field. They seemed a lot more aggressive with a lot more attacking and blitzing. They were a little bit more aggressive with their coverage.
"It's not surprising. I understand coach Stoops and what they've been able to accomplish defensively the last couple of decades. They look fast, the look good and they look aggressive."
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WVU STARTED the week as a 191/2-point underdog, the largest margin they've been predicted to lose by since a 221/2-point spread on the road against then-No. 2 Miami in 2003. The Mountaineers nearly won the game thanks to running back Quincy Wilson's memorable catch-and-run touchdown, but the Hurricanes won 22-20 on a last-second field goal.
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HOLGORSEN SAID Monday junior Paul Millard will start again against Oklahoma, but that he hasn't given up on using two quarterbacks. Junior Clint Trickett will continue to receive a large share of snaps in practice and Holgorsen maintained the possibility he'll use Trickett against the Sooners.
"I still think Clint brings something to the table that Paul doesn't," Holgorsen said.
Trickett played just six snaps, was 0-for-2 and took a sack in the win against William & Mary, but Holgorsen won't abandon the original plan to give Millard and Trickett time to prove themselves.
He didn't commit to rotating quarterbacks, but he didn't dismiss it like Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. He said he'll start J.W. Walsh against Texas-San Antonio and doesn't want to use backup Clint Chelf, who started the opener against Mississippi State.
"It all depends on how the game goes," Holgorsen said. "(Trickett has) played against Oklahoma before (in 2011). He knows what kind of speed they have, what kind of athletic ability they have. He's been in that situation before and I think he can help us from a maturity standpoint and being able to move the ball if we need to.
"We've just got to continue to rep him. He doesn't understand the offense as well as Paul does right now. I'm really happy how Paul performed and right now it looks like he's our guy, but with that said, we're going to continue to rep Clint to get in a position where we can use him when we need him. More than likely we're going to need him at some point."
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STOOPS USED a first-time starter, too, and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight was just the fourth freshman to start at quarterback in Oklahoma's modern era. Knight threw three touchdown passes, but also ran 13 times for 103 yards, the first time a Sooners quarterback ran for 100 yards in a game since Jason White in 2001.
Knight, who beat out junior Blake Bell in part because of a better and more accurate arm, completed 11-of-28 passes for just 86 yards. He was intercepted once.
"He did some things really well, obviously, with his legs when you rush for over 100 yards," Stoops said. "That part of it was really good. Throwing the ball wasn't really good, but I've got great confidence in how he does throw the football.
"Once he settles down and I believe gets more comfortable with the situation, I expect him to throw the ball better. He made some nice throws, particularly in the second half, but he's still got a great arm. He's just got to get more comfortable."
The Sooners punted on their first four drives, but scored on four in a row and six out of seven. Bell played in the fourth quarter. He ran twice for 15 yards and completed 3 of 5 passes for 38 yards.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.