The Oklahoma Sooners had a huge win in the first game of the 2013 college football season over the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. While the passing game was almost non-existent, Trevor Knight still ran for over 100 yards and the Sooners put up over 400 yards of total offense. However, the biggest thing about this performance came from the Oklahoma Sooners defense, who completely shut out the Warhawks, a team that not only made it to a bowl game last season but beat an SEC team in the Arkansas Razorbacks on the way there.
This week, OU faces their first Big 12 team when they take on the West Virginia Mountaineers. Here is a look at three keys to victory for the Oklahoma Sooners.
Trevor Knight and the Passing Game
Trevor Knight was very shaky last week in the passing game, throwing for only 86 yards and completing only 39.3 percent of his pass attempts. However, he made up for it with his legs, running for 112 yards on 13 carries and throwing three touchdowns in the game. This week, Knight will need to show more talent in the passing game if OU wants to knock off West Virginia.
Knight can once again rely on the running game this week, but his numbers have to come up. This year’s Mountaineers’ team is not the same one that OU had to score 50 points to beat last year, but if Knight doesn’t show better accuracy, this could be a trap game for the Sooners.
Stopping the Running Game
Last year, West Virginia put up over 700 yards of offense against the Oklahoma Sooners, but all three men responsible (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Geno Smith) are all in the NFL now. Last week’s Mountaineers team was not as explosive and spent more time running the ball. However, Charles Sims rushing for 120 yards and receiver Daikiel Shorts led the offense in receiving with seven catches for 63 yards.
This means, the Sooners linebackers will need to match last week’s solid performance, stopping Sims from picking up any yards on the ground and helping to cover the short yardage passing game. This West Virginia team isn’t as threatening as last years, forced to win the game on a 4th quarter touchdown against a weak William & Mary squad, but OU can’t let their guards down.
Keep the Special Teams off the Field
One of the most impressive stats last week was punter Jed Barnett keeping the OU special teams clean for the entire game. Last season, special teams coverage was a weak spot for the Oklahoma Sooners, and we still haven’t seen how they will play when someone returns a punt against them. Barnett had a high seven punts against Louisiana-Monroe, and OU needs to cut that number down, which lies on Trevor Knight’s shoulder.
However, what was most impressive about the punt unit last week was the fact that the Warhawks didn’t return one single punt last week, with five fair catches and two downed balls. If the Sooners can limit all special teams returns, their defense will be the unit responsible for stopping West Virginia this week.
Follow Shawn S. Lealos on Twitter @sslealos