NORMAN, Okla. — Brennan Clay ran for a career-high 170 yards, Damien Williams added 95 and No. 16 Oklahoma went old-school to grind out a 16-7 victory over West Virginia in a low-scoring slugfest.
A year after the teams played a 50-49 barnburner in Morgantown, the rematch featured far more turnovers (eight) than touchdowns (two). Oklahoma starter Trevor Knight was replaced by Blake Bell in the fourth quarter, and Paul Millard struggled to get WVU on the board after Dreamius Smith’s 75-yard first-quarter touchdown run.
“I’m not happy with the seven points,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who stuck with Millard throughout the night despite frequently mulling a change to Clint Trickett. “I thought about it a bunch.”
Millard finished 21-of-41 passing for 218 yards with an interception and one of WVU’s three lost fumbles. He underthrew several open receivers on deep routes but also was victimized by drops. One of those was a third-quarter bomb that Ivan McCartney dropped at the goal line before colliding with an Oklahoma defender.
“(Millard) put the ball there for some guys to make some plays and we didn’t,” Holgorsen said.
Unlike Millard, Oklahoma’s Knight didn’t survive the night. The redshirt freshman was 10-of-20 with two poorly thrown interceptions when he was replaced by Bell, who played the final three series but threw only one pass, an incompletion.
Oklahoma’s best offense was its running game, which produced 316 yards on 57 carries.
“You rush the ball for 316 yards, it’s pretty special,” said Sooners coach Bob Stoops, whose offense seems to have shifted away from the pass-first attack deployed in recent seasons under Sam Bradford and Landry Jones.
That clearly entrusted the game to Clay, who had 22 carries, and Williams, who ran it 21 times.
“I think the offensive line just did a great job,” Clay said. “I think it was just overall a good effort. I just happened to be the one with the ball.”
The game turned ugly during a third quarter that featured five punts, four turnovers and zero points.
Knight threw one interception that Darwin Cook grabbed in the end zone and another that Karl Joseph hauled in at the West Virginia 15.
Not to be outdone, WVU’s Millard floated a poor pass that Gabe Lynn intercepted in Sooners territory, and Mountaineers receiver Kevin White coughed up a fumble at the OU 16 after converting a third-and-long.
Said Stoops: “It’s kind of unusual from a year ago where everything was offense winning the game and lighting it up.”
Smith’s tackle-busting touchdown run on WVU’s second series made it 7-0—the first points allowed by Oklahoma this season after last week’s 34-0 shutout of Louisiana-Monroe.
Oklahoma closed to within 7-3 on its ensuing series, a drive extended by a roughing-the-punter flag against WVU freshman Daryl Worley.
Another special teams blunder damaged the Mountaineers when Mario Alford’s fumbled fair catch at the WVU 32 set up Oklahoma’s first touchdown, a 1-yard pass from Trevor Knight to fullback Trey Millard.
That 10-3 lead stood until the final seconds of the half when Knight misfired on third-and-1 at the 4 and the Sooners settled for Mike Hunnicutt’s 21-yard kick.
Twice in the second quarter the West Virginia defense thwarted Oklahoma threats with turnovers. Isaiah Bruce stripped Lacolton Bester after a 32-yard catch leading to Cook’s recovery at the WVU 18. On Oklahoma’s next series, Brandon Golson’s blindside sack of Knight jarred the ball loose and Will Clarke recovered at the WVU 38.
West Virginia averaged 7 yards per carry thanks in large part to the first-quarter breakaway run by Smith, who finished with 77 yards on three carries. Curiously, he had only one rushing attempt after the touchdown.
“I really don’t know what was the cause behind that,” Smith said. “We just had to go along with the game plan, I guess. I don’t know. I was perfectly (healthy). I don’t what he story behind that one.”
“We just kept rotating guys, he said. “We feel like we’ve got four backs who can run the ball. We didn’t just specifically say we want to get the ball to (Smith).”
Charles Sims netted 57 on 11 carries, while Wendell Smallwood (five carries for 25 yards) and Dustin Garrison (three for 16 yards) also contributed.
ON THE RECEIVING END
Kevin White, after sitting out the opener with a foot injury, made seven catches for 80 yards in his WVU debut, but he lost a crucial fumble at the Oklahoma 16 in the third quarter.
“Kevin White finally started doing some things,” Holgorsen said. “He had the fumble, which was devastating, but he did catch the ball and slipped a tackle or two every now and then—and we need that to happen more.
Ronald Carswell finished with three catches for 44 yards and McCartney made three for 26.
RIGG ‘OUT COLD’
There also was a frightening moment with 5:42 left in the game when WVU senior linebacker Doug Rigg was carted off the field with medical personnel paying close attention to his head and neck area.
“He was out cold,” Holgorsen said, “but he was moving his hands and his feet some. It was scary. He collided with one of our guys.”
Added Cook, a fellow senior: “He started moving (his arms) at the end and that made me feel better. He’s my dear friend, and I was really hurting over that.”