Under pressure: Sooners’ Striker creates day of havoc

NORMAN, Okla. — From Saturday’s career-high 13 tackles, one obviously stood out to Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker.

His blindside hit on Skyler Howard jarred the ball free and into the arms of fellow linebacker Jordan Evans, who took it 41 yards for the clinching touchdown in a 44-24 win over West Virginia.

“A beautiful play,” said Striker of Oklahoma’s first defensive touchdown since the Sugar Bowl closed the 2013 season. “A strip-sack and a guy just comes out of nowhere to scoop it up. It was like that slow-motion scene.”

A scene continually replayed on an afternoon when West Virginia surrendered seven sacks and five turnovers.

“That sounds good,” said Striker, whose pressure contributed to the secondary intercepting Howard three times, which was two more picks than he threw across his first eight games. “You could see it in everybody’s eyes. They did a good job on the back side all day.”

Two of those interceptions were plucked by sophomore Jordan Thomas, who returned from a one-game suspension that left him watching the 52-38 win over Tulsa fro his apartment.

“This was a big statement game for me,” Thomas said. “Missing the last game was tough. It hurt. I had to watch it from TV, not even from the field.

“We’ve been doubted since Day One, but this is our statement year. As many as interceptions as we can get, we’ll love it.”

Penalties aplenty: Oklahoma’s rash of personal fouls led to 134 yards in penalties, the most since a 2005 Bedlam game.

“We came in the game really aggressive, and it kind of took over our brains,” joked Thomas.

Then it was defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ turn to joke.

“I saw Texas get 16 for 400 yards last week,” he said. “It’s the way the game is officiated now.”

West Virginia was dinged by flags also, 11 times for 111 yards. One play that initially seemed sure to draw a flag—Karl Joseph’s crushing pop that broke up a deep pass and knocked Dede Westbrook into the WVU bench—appeared properly adjudicated.

“A good no-call,” said Mountaineers defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “He lowered his shoulder and he didn’t target the head at all.”

Smallwood came alive in second half: Wendell Smallwood exceeded the 100-yard mark for the secondd straight week despite a quiet opening half in which he had 34 yards on 12 carries.

“We came out sloppy (early), and we didn’t get a lot of things done,” he said.

Smallwood more than doubled his first-half yardage on WVU’s opening possession of the third quarter and finished with 111 on 22 carries.

Rushel Shell scored a first-quarter touchdown and finished with 20 carries for 72 yards. Skyler Howard dashed 50 yards on a fourth-and-2 touchdown keeper, though 56 yards lost to sacks were hard to overcome.

“Like we said, this was a money game,” Shell said, “and we let the money go out of our hands.”

Slow start: West Virginia, after scoring on its first series in all three nonconference games, went punt-punt-interception-punt against Oklahoma.

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