No. 4 Oklahoma, West Virginia both aim to avoid letdown

National Sports

With each team coming off victories over rivals, West Virginia over Virginia Tech and Oklahoma over Nebraska, a bit of a letdown might be natural.

But heading into Saturday’s game at Oklahoma, both are doing their best to avoid such pitfalls.

The No. 4 Sooners are looking to prove they still belong in the discussion for a College Football Playoff berth after a pair of tight nonconference wins over Tulane and the Cornhuskers.

West Virginia is looking to continue to bounce back from its season-opening loss to Maryland and continue to show progress in Neal Brown’s third season.

“We are going up against the six-time defending Big 12 champion,” Brown said. “You know just saying that is a lot, right? But six times in a row they’ve won the Big 12 championship.”

The Mountaineers (2-1) defense has been tough, especially recently. West Virginia has allowed just 424 yards of total offense combined over their last two games.

West Virginia’s defense will have its hands full against Spencer Rattler and the Sooners, even if Rattler hasn’t been overly sharp early and Oklahoma (3-0) is coming off its lowest-scoring output since 2016 in a 23-16 victory over Nebraska.

“The thing about Rattler is his arm is so unique,” Brown said. “He can move. He extends plays. … He has one of the strongest arms and one of the quickest releases that I’ve seen.”

And though the scoring output hasn’t yet lived up to the high levels the Sooners have posted in recent seasons, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley says his offense is close to breaking through.

“Probably a little bit closer than a lot of people think to playing some good ball,” Riley said. “We’ve had some periods of the season already where we’ve played very good ball, so it’s a fine line and we’ve got to push it over the hump.

“The thing with Spencer is continue to stay patient, continue to play within the system and trust his teammates, trust what we’re doing and if we can all do that as a group, we’ll continue and we’ll bust through and play pretty well coming up soon.”

Rattler has completed nearly 75 percent of his passes this season, but is averaging just 7.7 yards per attempt, down from 9.6 a year ago in his first season as the starter.

The teams didn’t play last season, with COVID issues for West Virginia initially pushing the game back then similar issues with the Sooners two weeks later forcing the game to ultimately be canceled.

“We didn’t play a year ago, but prepared at length for, which is just unique when you turn back on the film because there’s no opponent that you’ve never played or you haven’t played in two years that you’ve seen so much film on,” Sooners defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said.

Oklahoma has won all eight meetings between the teams since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, including the last six by an average of more than 20 points per game.

The Sooners lead the overall series 10-2.

Oklahoma will be without cornerback Woodi Washington and potentially without receiver Brian Darby for the game. Washington and Darby were both hurt in the Sooners’ second game of the season and missed last week’s win over Nebraska.

–Field Level Media

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