The Dominion Post  
 

Even minus Mayfield, Sooners have a potent ‘O’

Created on:   Thu, Nov 23, 2017   11:00 PM

Last modified:   Thu, Nov 23, 2017   11:00 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — WVU head football coach Dana Holgorsen doesn’t seem to care that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield isn’t starting the Nov. 25 game, in Norman.

O.U. head coach Lincoln Riley announced Monday that Mayfield was stripped of his captain status and would not start against the Mountaineers because of inappropriate actions against Kansas last week.

Riley didn’t say when Mayfield would come into the game, but he will play. In the meantime, all the Sooners are going to do is bring in a former 5-star QB to replace him, Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray.

“It starts with [Mayfield], who we all know is going to play,” Holgorsen said. “The guy behind him is every bit as good, if you can believe that. He’s younger, but every bit as good. They won’t change much, regardless of who is in there.”

Murray was one of the most decorated high school quarterbacks to come out of Texas, throwing for 4,713 yards and running for 1,485 as a senior. His career as an Aggie got off to a shaky start, with five touchdown passes and seven interceptions as a true freshman. He decided to transfer to the Sooners and thought he would sit one year and replace Mayfield in 2017, but Mayfield was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Murray gets his first start at O.U. on Saturday, even in limited opportunities

“I think Kyler will be fine, he’s been in this arena before,” Riley said. “He’s started big-time college football games and he’s a very good player. I think he’ll handle it very well.”

Mayfield is going to play, and, as the Heisman front-runner, has helped establish one of the most prolific offenses in college football history this season. The Sooners average a staggering 8.32 yards per play, nearly an entire yard ahead of the next closest team, Central Florida.

“I think 8.5 will break the national record, since they have been keeping track,” WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “Hopefully, they don’t do it against us. Yeah, they’re good.”

Besides Mayfield, the O.U. offensive line may be the best in the nation. All five starters returned from last year, including second-team all-America tackle Orlando Brown. The unit is coached by former WVU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh.

“I’m not kidding when I say this: They might have the best offensive line I’ve seen in over 20 years of coaching,” Gibson said.

O.U. is putting up big numbers despite losing its top two running backs — Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine — and top receiver — Dede Westbrook — to the NFL.

While the current running backs and receivers haven’t stood out statistically like their predecessors, they’re every bit as good. But perhaps the biggest threat is tight end Mark Andrews, who Gibson said is one of the best in the nation.

At 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds, Andrews can be a match-up nightmare. He has 47 catches for 787 yards and five touchdowns.

“Andrews has some size and can create mismatches with smaller-type bodies, smaller safeties,” safeties coach Matt Caponi said. “We need to play great technique, whether it is zone coverage or ‘man’ coverage, getting hands on receivers in zone coverage and collision and getting our eyes right in ‘man’ coverage.”

Whether it’s Murray or Mayfield, the Mountaineers’ defense is going to have its hands full.

“We get to play a really good football team,” Holgorsen said. “We all are well aware of who we’re playing. They’re a great team.