Chasing Oklahoma With An Eye On Past WVU Pursuits
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Given that this is an off-week for West Virginia, the timing might just be right to take a look at the Mountaineers’ place in the Big 12 Conference in regard to its relationship with Oklahoma.
If WVU is ever going to win the Big 12 title — and it is no secret that such an accomplishment is on coach Neal Brown’s wish list — it is going to have to defeat the Sooners.
The way things are developing, however, it would appear that would come later rather than “Sooner”, for Oklahoma has taken the place of arch-rivals and nemeses Pitt, Penn State, and Miami.
One need only note that Oklahoma has beaten WVU all eight times it has played against the Mountaineers since they joined the Big 12 Conference and has — and this borders on the unimaginable — scored 50 or more points against them in each of the last four defeats.
What’s more, if Lincoln Riley remains in Oklahom, where he is in just his third season as head coach, it only stands to reason the Sooners will get better and better, if that is possible as they have produced the past two Heisman Trophy winners in quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray and may have a third in Jalen Hurts.
After losing to Oklahoma, 52-14 this past Saturday, Neal Brown was asked just how good a team the Sooners were.
“The easy thing to do after you get beat pretty good is to give credit to the other team but, and I said this going in, I don’t know if they are the best in any phase, I don’t know if this the best offense Lincoln has had, but do think this is the best ‘team’ Lincoln has had,” Brown said.
“I say this having watched as a fan the last two years, but I have paid attention because Lincoln and I have a relationship. I think this is the best team and opportunity they have had to compete and win the whole thing because defensively they are better, special teams they have an opportunity to be elite.
“Their specialists are good, their coverages are good, they got a bunch of guys who can run, their returners are special, so this is the best chance they have. To win the thing you have to have everything fall in place for you.
“Right now they are playing extremely well and I think, I don’t want to speak for him, there are areas they can improve on as well,” Brown concluded.
So how does Oklahoma’s dominance over WVU these last eight years rank with the Mountaineers’ efforts against Penn State, Pitt, Maryland and Miami?
Let’s take a look:
Series record: 2-10, .167 Most consecutive losses: 8
Worst loss: 52-10, 1978 Times giving up 50 points: 6
Notes: WVU has never beaten Oklahoma in Morgantown, going 0-4. It has given up 40 or more points to the Sooners six straight games. As bad as all this sounds, two of the program’s biggest wins came at Oklahoma’s expense, Don Nehlen arriving on the national scene in 1982 by going to Norman and beating OU 41-27 behind Jeff Hostetler and Bill Stewart’s 48-28 Fiesta Bowl win in 2008 after being upset by Pitt.
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Series record: 3-17, .150 Most consecutive losses: 6
Worst loss: 58-14, 1986 Times giving up 50 points: 1
Notes: The Miami team that beat WVU, 58-14, in 1986 was No. 1 in the country. WVU won only once at home against the Hurricanes, that coming by a 17-14 score during Don Nehlen’s undefeated 1993 season. In 2003 an unranked WVU narrowly missed a stunning upset of No. 2 Miami, losing, 22-20. That was the game in which running back Quincy Wilson made one of the great plays in school history on a catch and run for a touchdown to take a late lead, only to have Miami’s Kellen Winslow make one of the greatest catches for Miami on fourth down to set up the game-winning field goal.
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Series record: 9-48-2, .169 Most consecutive losses: 25
Worst loss: 62-14 in 1973 Times giving up 50 points: 1
Notes: When WVU broke the 25-game losing streak to Penn State, 17-14, at home in 1984 the story was told by the scoreboard which lit up “FINALLY!” Not only did WVU lose 25 straight to Penn State at one point but the Mountaineer went 28 games in a row without winning, having lost two in a row and tied one before that 25-game streak started. The win streak lasted from 1958 to 1983. Penn State scored 50 or more only once against WVU but it scored 40 or more nine times. In the 1973 game that Penn State won 62-14 Heisman Trophy winner John Capelletti, about whom a movie was made, scored four touchdowns. QB Major Harris scored one of the greatest touchdowns in school history against Penn State when he ran the wrong way through nearly the entire Nittany Lions defense to score in 1988.
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Series record: 40-61-3, .399 Most consecutive losses: 15
Worst loss: 53-0, 1904 Times giving up 50 points: 2
Notes: Most of Pitt’s success against was long ago with WVU winning 16 of the last 22 games. Pitt’s best team truly dominated, winning 15 in a row from 1929 through 1946 and shutting WVU out five straight times from 1936 through 1943. They also shut out the Mountaineers seven straight times in the early days, 1904-1913. From 1923 to 1943, WVU went 12 straight games without scoring more than seven points on Pitt.
Of course, in a rivalry like this the Mountaineers had many big wins including seven times when the Panthers were ranked in the Top 20 including the last three times. The last time the teams played, in 2011, WVU overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit to win 21-20 as Shawne Alston scored twice in the second half. The best play of the series came when Chad Johnston hit Zach Abraham with a 60-yard scoring pass with 15 seconds left to win the 1994 game 47-41.
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As one can see, other than in the Pitt rivalry, the dominance of one team over the other remained solid and that does not bode well moving forward against Oklahoma.
Times do change, though, and Pitt, Penn State and Miami had some down times, but WVU also has seen its success go in cycles, so for it to find a way to beat Oklahoma the Mountaineers must be on one of their upswings.
This is what Neal Brown is trying to establish but, it appears, it is going to be a gradual growing cycle rather than anything dramatic.