"It gets them guessing," Sims said. "It makes the defense uncomfortable because they never know which way we're going with it."
The Mountaineers had fun with the Tribe by using a heavy formation six times where a back on one side of the quarterback would motion to join the back on the other side of the quarterback. WVU ran that way, but also ran counter plays in the other direction.
Yet WVU also passed out of the three-back formation. Quarterback Paul Millard was 3-for-3 for 83 yards and a touchdown, that score being a trap the Mountaineers were waiting to spring all game. In the first quarter, WVU's fourth use of the three-back set saw them motion into a heavy set. Millard threw quickly outside to Ivan McCartney for a 10-yard gain.
In the third quarter, WVU went to the three-back set for a sixth time and again motioned into a heavy set. Millard threw outside to Ronald Carswell for a four-yard gain. The Mountaineers hurried, but stayed with the same personnel and formation with the same motion. The Tribe defenders stayed close to the play, expecting either a run or maybe another quick pass, but Millard's play action gave Carswell an opportunity to get behind the defensive backs for a 69-yard touchdown.
"We'd started running the ball effectively and their safeties started creeping up," Millard said. "You get tired of four-, five-, six-, seven-, eight- and nine-yard gains and the safeties come up. That's' when you attack over the top, but you've got to know when to attack."
The trick of the formation is that it helps the passing game as well. When WVU uses three backs, it encourages the defense to match numbers against the Mountaineers or risk a disadvantage. If a defense doesn't match up, WVU will run with a numbers advantage. If the defense matches, then WVU's receivers are one-on-one outside.
It's critical against the Sooners because they prefer to play one-on-one outside under normal circumstances.
"The thing about the trey is you can see exactly what the defense is doing and you can make up your mind because you can see how they're going to play it," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said.
For kicks, both Sims and Smith said WVU is able to use three true running backs and a unique set of plays in the same formation, which can help against a defense like Oklahoma's that puts so much speed on the field.
"I don't think (defenses) think when the main running backs come out that the next one can do the same things," Smith said. "All four of us are capable of doing the same things. It just throws them off. We've got a big package and a little package. If you see the big one, you assume we're going to run it, but that's what we want because when (defenders) come down, it opens the passing game. When they try to stop that, we can check into a run. It's the best way for us to take what the defense gives us."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.