WVU’s time to shine
Mountaineers welcome Sooners in primetime test
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Things sure do get wild in West Virginia whenever Oklahoma comes to town.
In the first meeting of top 10 teams in the Big 12 this season, the eighth-ranked Sooners (8-2, 7-0 Big 12, No. 9 CFP) will try to keep their faint national playoff hopes going on Saturday night, along with the consolation prize of moving closer to a league title.
Then there’s No. 10 West Virginia, which badly wants its first league crown but needs some help along the way.
The Mountaineers (8-1, 5-1, No. 14 CFP) also want to put to rest the notion that it’s not up to par with Oklahoma, which is the only Big 12 team that West Virginia hasn’t beaten since joining the league in 2012.
“I’ve been here a long time, 0-4 against Oklahoma,” said West Virginia center Tyler Orlosky. “Obviously you want to win this game and it’ll set you up for the rest of the season, finish out strong. And hopefully we do.”
West Virginia has the Big 12’s stingiest defense, allowing 20.6 points per game. Chances out that goes out the window in a series that has seen two high-scoring games in Morgantown.
In 2012, Oklahoma needed a last-second TD pass by Landry Jones to beat the Mountaineers 50-49 in a game that featured 1,440 yards of offense .
Two years later, the teams combined for 1,013 yards, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine ran for 242 yards and four scores , and the Sooners won 45-33.
Oklahoma has a 14-game conference winning streak. Its last three road games have been decided by 10 points or less.
“There’s always a certain challenge and energy to playing on the road to a rowdy crowd,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. “The guys kind of unify, and bond, and it’s sort of you against all of them, and you can get a charge out of that.”
Some other things to note when the Sooners and Mountaineers meet on what could be a cold, rainy night:
TITLE FOCUS: Oklahoma or No. 13 Oklahoma State can win the Big 12 title if one of them wins their remaining games. The Sooners can wrap it up with a win Saturday coupled with an Oklahoma State loss at TCU. The Cowboys and Sooners meet Dec. 3. West Virginia takes the title if it wins its remaining three games and Oklahoma State loses once.
QBS PERFORMING DIFFERENTLY: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has thrown 17 TDs with two interceptions in his last four games. West Virginia’s Skyler Howard has five interceptions in his last three but hopes to take advantage of a Sooners’ defense that is allowing an average of 297 yards.
HONORING TAVON: Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook revealed this week that he wears No. 11 in honor of Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin, who currently wears the same number. Austin starred at West Virginia. In 2012, he had a school-record 344 rushing yards and league-record 572 all-purpose yards against the Sooners, a performance that Westbrook enjoyed watching while attending junior college. “That guy was awesome,” Westbrook said.
WVU RBS: Coach Dana Holgorsen said he wasn’t sure of the status of West Virginia running backs Rushel Shell and Justin Crawford, who playing sparingly last week with injuries. That left freshman Kennedy McKoy to get the bulk of the carries in a 24-20 win over Texas . McKoy ran for 73 yards and West Virginia had a season-low 114 yards on the ground in struggling to close out the Longhorns after building a two-touchdown lead.
PASS RUSHERS APPLY: If the Mountaineers want to get to Mayfield, they’d better get busy. West Virginia has just 17 sacks this season. Noble Nwachukwu, who is tied for the team lead with three, sat out the Texas game with a leg injury. Holgorsen said he expects Nwachukwu to be ready this week.
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Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.