Big Gap To Bridge From WVU To Top Big 12 Team
While it was the Sooner Schooner that crashed Saturday afternoon it was the West Virginia football team that saw its wheels come off as No. 5 Oklahoma administered a 52-14 beating to the Mountaineers.
Not that it was unexpected, for Oklahoma entered the contest played in Norman fans as a 33.5-point favorite, a point spread that made it at least exciting until the end for the underdog bettors.
As much as Oklahoma has scored this year, averaging 50 points a game, the Sooner Schooner had probably just run itself into the ground and couldn’t go any longer. Hopefully, it was under warranty.
But what was dispiriting for the Mountaineer faithful was how this game emphasized just how far first-year Coach Neal Brown has to go to bridge a talent gap that is as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Any way you look at it these are two teams from the same league but certainly not in the same league.
“For this to be a competitive game we needed to play clean, which we didn’t. We had to run the ball, which we couldn’t. We had to force some turnovers, which we didn’t. We had to minimize explosive plays, which we couldn’t do,” Brown said.
It probably was as much that WVU wasn’t mature enough or talented enough to do those thing as it was that Oklahoma would not allow them to do those things.
The Sooners are a team in search of a national championship while West Virginia is caught up in the Marine mode of just looking for a few good men.
The way injuries and defections have built up they may be asking for volunteers before taking the field against Baylor two Thursdays ahead, but the truth of the matter is that Dana Holgorsen left Neal Brown holding the deed to a mine- out gold mine when he jumped town and headed to Houston. Youth and backups, which was pretty much what Brown put on the field Saturday, will not beat Oklahoma.
“It was a struggle all day for us,” Brown said in his post-game press conference. “We got outplayed and, honestly, outmanned at several positions.”
And you couldn’t lay blame at any player’s feet.
A sprinter whose best time is 11 flat for 100 meters cannot beat someone whose worst time is 10 flat unless that 10 flat runner falls on his face … and this Oklahoma team is too good to fall on its face, especially playing a team that is a shell of what it was thought to be.
The defense was mish-mosh collection of next man up.
Josh Chandler, for example, is the best linebacker on the team, but he was moved out of his normal will position to play the mike, to try and give WVU a better chance to stop OU’s inside game. The idea was good but it mattered not because Chandler exited with a knee injury suffered while playing on the punt team.
Dylan Tonkery, who had been playing middle linebacker, was moved to bandit to replace VanDarius Cowan, who underwent knee surgery this week and will miss the rest of the season.
Quandarius Qualls, also a bandit, left the game with an injury, too.
The secondary was equally as messed up as Keith Washington, the best cornerback, missed his second game due to injury. To try and cover that up, Josh Norwood was moved from safety back to cornerback, his original position, while freshman Kerry Martin got his first college start.
But things kept getting worse as WVU had to dip into its walk-ons to bring on Devan Wade to Norwood, who had to move to free toreplace Martin after communications went south at that position.
It kind of put WVU in the position of playing two-hand touch in a tackle league and, know what, not a soul on the Oklahoma sideline had any sympathy.
“I don’t think Lincoln Riley or Jalen Hurts really cared,” said Vic Koenning, the Mountaineer defensive coordinator. “We’re going to have to go back and see who we got who can run and tackle and chew gum at the same time.”
There was no white flag of surrender being waved, though. Matt Moore, the offensive coordinator, was with Neal Brown at Troy through three-win first season and he says they are not discouraged.
“We’ve been here before as a staff, and it’s good when you have guys around you that know where you’re going and know where you are,” he said. “Sometimes when you’ve never been here before, you don’t always believe. I believe 100 percent in what Coach Brown’s doing and how we’re doing it.
“We’re going to keep grinding and make sure our kids understand the same way. We’re going to keep grinding and keep recruiting, keep working in the weight room. We’re going to get this where it needs to be.”