Grading The Mountaineers: Oklahoma Report Card
Everyone expected a shootout, and West Virginia and Oklahoma delivered exactly what most predicted.
The Sooners made a couple more plays, especially with their pair of scoop and score TDs, and left Morgantown with a 59-56 win and the Big 12 championship game berth that went to the WVU/OU victor.
Let’s grade West Virginia’s effort against the Sooners.
Offensive Grade – B West Virginia had as many TDs (four) as it did failed third down conversions (seven of 11) in the first half. The Mountaineers managed 371 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes, but three failed opportunities – a failed fourth down try in the red zone, a second quarter punt and a strip sack of Will Grier – put WVU in a 35-28 hole at halftime. The Mountaineer kept the pedal down in the second half, and ultimately wound up with 704 yards of total offense. Will Grier’s 539 passing yards were the second most in West Virginia history, but it all wasn’t quite enough to overcome a couple of turnovers that led to OU touchdowns.
Defensive Grade – D WVU did get a couple turnovers, but other than that, it was never able to stop Oklahoma. The Sooners had over 300 yards both rushing and passing, amassing 668 in all. OU quarterback Kyler Murray was every bit as good as advertised, throwing for 364 yards and running for 114. He threw just seven incompletions in 27 attempts, and other than an early second half pick in the end zone, he didn’t make a single mistake. Oklahoma came to WVU with the best offense in college football, and it did nothing in Morgantown that will hurt that.
Special teams – B- The Sooners had a couple of good returns, including a big one to come out of halftime that set up OU, which was leading by seven at the time, with excellent field position. But West Virginia’s defense bailed out its special teams brethren with an interception in the end zone to deny OU any points on the key possession. After that, special teams didn’t have a significant impact.
Coaching – B- I’m not sure what Tony Gibson’s defense could have done different to slow down one of the best college offenses not only this season but in the game’s history. Oklahoma is that good. Down six injured linebackers, West Virginia’s D just didn’t have any answers for an OU offense that dynamic. Offensively WVU did everything it could to stay in the game. The Mountaineer coaches knew it was going to be a classic shootout, and they did all they could to keep pace. They came close, but a couple turnovers and some curious officiating calls didn’t help West Virginia’s cause. Ultimately, though, the defense that makes a few plays, even in an offensive showcase, will determine the victor, and that’s what got the Sooners the win.
Atmosphere – A Everything is relative. A night game with temperatures dropping below 40 through the second half would often be viewed as frigid by many. But compared to some of the ice-encrusted (2005 vs. Pitt) or snow-filled (2008 vs. USF) fields West Virginia has played over the years, Friday’s weather was down-right tropical. With students still on Thanksgiving break, this is the one game of the year I won’t chastise them for not filling up their section. The rest of the stadium was pretty much packed, and add to that the Senior Day ceremonies, which are always emotional for players and fans alike. The back-and-forth action kept the crowd revved up to the end. It was the best atmosphere of the season for the Mountaineers – home or away.