Football, WVU Sports

WVU feels uneasy about Oklahoma winning the battle up front so easily

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia is a team that is built from the inside out. The Mountaineers’ best units are the offensive and defensive lines.

When they’re at their best, WVU can look unstoppable, like they were against BYU two weeks ago. When an opponent can match them up front, however, the Mountaineers can look helpless, like they did last week against Oklahoma.

“They soundly beat us up front,” WVU coach Neal Brown said of the Sooners. “The strength of our football team is up front and they did some things moving their defensive line that negated some things we did in the run game early. They got some penetration that nobody else really has and then their o-line did a nice job and got some movement.”

In the lopsided victory, Oklahoma’s offense put up 59 points and 644 yards, both season-highs for West Virginia’s defense. On defense, the Sooners held WVU’s offense to just 20 points on 330 yards, both the lowest since quarterback Garrett Greene returned to the starting lineup over a month ago.

“We didn’t perform nearly as well as we wanted to and that’s just something we’ve got to look back on and we can’t forget about it,” offensive lineman Tomas Rimac said. “This week we’re really focusing on just putting our heads down and working.”

The Mountaineers still ran for 176 yards and did not allow a sack, but OU held them to just 10 of 31 passing and 4 of 16 on third down.

“We still ran the ball for 176 yards and we didn’t give up a sack, they just weren’t dominant,” Brown said of the offensive line. “Oklahoma’s D-line got up for it and did a few different things than they had done in previous games. It took us a little while to settle down.

“It wasn’t that we played poorly, most teams would probably take 176 (rushing) yards and no sacks versus Oklahoma, but for us and the standard we’re setting of how we play up front, it wasn’t up to our standard or our expectations.”

On defense, WVU simply got pushed around. The Sooners ran for 221 yards, averaged 8.3 yards per play and were 8 of 14 on third down, all while putting up 59 points.

“We can say whatever we want, they beat us, easily,” defensive lineman Jalen Thornton said. “That’s the beautiful thing about this game, it’s the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows and you can’t lie about it. I think it was good for us to come in (Sunday), watch the film, own it and just flush it down the toilet and move on.”

Brown said it was important for the team to watch the film from Oklahoma early because their next three opponents — Cincinnati (2:30 p.m./ESPN+), Baylor and the bowl opponent — will all watch that game and try to copy what the Sooners did.

“This is a copycat deal,” Brown said. “The things that (Oklahoma) did, Cincinnati and Baylor can get into very easily…That’s what we worked (Sunday) and we’ll be working it all week because we’ll see them again this Saturday and next Saturday as well.”

WVU is dealing with injuries to a couple of offensive starters this week, right tackle Doug Nester and running back CJ Donaldson. Nester made his return to the starting lineup against the Sooners but did not finish the game. Donaldson was knocked out in the second half and also did not finish.

Brown said neither player practiced on Sunday and he will have a better idea of their availability by the time he does his radio show on Thursday evening.