NORMAN, Okla. — On what projects to be a steamy night at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, here are three improbable (but not impossible) paths that could propel West Virginia to an upset of the No. 16 Sooners:
1. Sooners slip-ups.
Dana Holgorsen entertained a question this week as to whether WVU needed to play a perfect game to beat Oklahoma. “To ask our guys, especially those who are inexperienced, to play a perfect game—that’s impossible,” he said.
The more salient question might be: How imperfect does Oklahoma need to be? Two turnovers? Three?
Trevor Knight flashed some dual-threat audacity against Louisiana-Monroe, but in the early stages he hardly looked refined as a thrower, misfiring on swing passes and generally lacking touch. His lone interception came on a well-thrown deep ball that receiver Trey Metoyer lost in a rollover to ULM safety Cordero Smith. Don’t fault Knight on that one—but remember he was fortunate earlier in the game when Smith dropped an interception in the end zone.
If West Virginia can pluck a couple of the freshman’s errant passes, then Oklahoma could be saddled with another home loss in the fashion of last year’s costly fumbles against K-State.
2. WVU unveils new firepower.
While there’s no excusing the offense that lurched to a 24-point output against William & Mary last week, West Virginia was within a few eyelashes of scoring 40 points. (Settling for a field goal after Charles Sims was tripped up at the 5. Paul Millard overshooting Ivan McCartney on a deep route. Mario Alford dropping a slant route that would have left him isolated on a safety.)
Alford in particular offers interesting upside in Week 2, working in the slot against OU’s man coverage.
“You can watch his tape from juco and tell why we recruited the kid,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “He was banged up for about two weeks and we kept saying over and over,’This kid is not playing as fast as he can play.’ But he kept telling us, ‘Coach, my toe’s hurting. I can’t run.’
“Well, I think his toe’s healthy right now because he’s running fast. This week was by far his best week of preparation and his best week of running.”
And then there’s the prospect of outside receiver Kevin White making his first appearance, perhaps matching up against Aaron Colvin just as Stedman Bailey did last season.
3. The Mountaineers defense finds its 11th guy.
Holgorsen and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson lamented WVU played with 10 guys on a few crucial snaps against William & Mary, claiming that a lone busted assignment led to several big gains.
“You can say we played pretty well on defense with the exception of three plays,” Holgoorsen said. “Well, three plays made us look really bad in the second quarter. If you want to say we were good on defense with the exception of three plays, those three plays gave them 17 points, which is way too many.”
If indeed WVU came that close to a satisfactory effort, there’s a chance the defense could close the gap in Week 2.