Five Takeaways From the Sooners’ Victory Over West Virginia

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The Tale of the…Wedge

Oct 11, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; View of Oklahoma Sooners megaphones on the sidelines during the game against the Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma beat Texas 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that was clearly apparent after the final seconds ticked away was the enormous number of penalties the referees levied against both teams. All in all, a total of 23 penalties for 245 yards (11 penalties for 111 yards for West Virginia, 12 penalties for 134 yards for Oklahoma) were assessed, a huge number by any measure. It was clear this officiating crew – already notorious for the officiating of the prior week’s Texas-Oklahoma State matchup – was determined to call the game their way.

A collective groan issued from the 80,000 plus OU fans in attendance when the trigger-happy referees flagged Oklahoma’s return team during the third quarter for an “illegal wedge” infraction. Everyone exchanged puzzled looks as the penalty was announced. Did an OU player give a Mountaineer cover guy an atomic wedgie? Did the OU return team assume a Greek phalanx formation, complete with shields and spears? Actually, there is a method to the madness.

About five years ago, the NCAA issued a new rule addressing “wedge blocking”, a technique that calls for blockers to run together, shoulder to shoulder, in order to protect the return man as he speeds downfield. According to a 2010 New Republic article by Jonathan Chait, the ruling was made to eliminate the potential for serious injuries and/or concussions when the kicking team tasked players with breaking up the wedge by serving as “wedge busters.” So there was a legitimate, albeit rare, reason for throwing that flag.

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