WVU Coordinator Upset With Self After Loss Despite Talent Gap, Other Issues
NORMAN, Okla. – Perhaps it was, as Tony Gibson insisted, primarily on himself.
Oklahoma, after all, flexed its muscle in scoring 59 points and hitting for touchdowns on all six of its first half possessions, the last-second field goal an exception as West Virginia trailed 45-10 at the break. But it certainly wasn’t entirely on Gibson, who took the defeat hard and blamed himself for among the most lopsided of performances during his four seasons as coordinator.
“This is going to be short and sweet,” Gibson said. “Obviously we all saw that. Defensively we sucked up front, we sucked at linebacker and we sucked at DB. Dana should probably fire me after that. That’s all I got.”
That’s just the issue. Gibson wears the proverbial heart on his sleeve as much as any coach, and West Virginia’s program, being his home state university, means quite a bit. But what he had, in terms of talent and a roster this season that was continually beat up, didn’t help. Sure, the Sooners gashed the Mountaineers in the air and on the ground. They steamrolled WVU’s defense for score after score, using an across-the-board arsenal of weapons including a Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback in Baker Mayfield, fleet-footed and dependable wideouts, an offensive line that returned all five starters from last season and a pair of explosive runners in Rodney Anderson and Abdul Adams.
Add in arguably the nation’s best tight end in Mark Andrews and depth that far exceeds anything West Virginia could put on the field, and the deck was badly stacked from the start. The loss should burn in the way only those lopsided blowouts do. But the Mountaineers were playing with fire in trying to simply rebuild a defense for a third consecutive season, and it finally caught up to them against one high-octane offense.
This wasn’t Baylor just throwing the ball vertically against inferior West Virginia defensive backs, or the old Penn State teams ganging up via the run on a smaller defensive line. This was Oklahoma showing its stuff anyway it wanted. OU back-up quarterback Kyler Murray, starting in place of Mayfield because of a suspension, started the game with a 66 yard run, and it never truly got much better from there.
The Sooners 45 first half points were the most they had amassed since scoring 49 versus Nebraska in 2009, and OU would score on its first nine possessions (8 TD, 1 FG) by mixing the power run, finesse passing, vertical ability and the tight end down the seam. West Virginia had no answer for any because it simply didn’t match-up. But those games are going to occasionally happen, especially with the elements of talent, injuries and execution issues mix with a superior opponent who is a national title contender.
Linebacker David Long put the game in perspective, noting that “most coaches do that to protect their players. But at the end of the day, we were the ones playing ball and we have to make the plays on the field. We didn’t do that.”
That’s something that was badly missing from the Mountaineers’ game, as for the third straight year Oklahoma’s big plays hurt WVU. Besides the 66-yarder from Murray, the Sooners averaged a program-record 12 yards per play. At one point, after just three drives, Oklahoma had hit for 21 points on just 13 total plays, taking less than two minutes per series to score.
In all, OU finished with 646 yards on 54 plays, which topped a previous best of 11.4 yards per play set at Kansas State in 1971. Their 59 points was the fourth-most ever allowed in Big 12 play by the Mountaineers.
“Busts,” Long said. “We didn’t do our job. Big plays hurt us. All the Big 12 offenses run fast. They were a great team but we hurt ourself. We made mistakes. Players have to be players and make plays. We gotta get back to work.”