The Mountaineers are preparing for a big match up against conference opponent Oklahoma. The Sooners defense is bringing about a lot of interest with all the changes made. The Sooners defense pitched a shutout against Louisiana-Monroe in their season debut. So just how will the Mountaineers handle the new look of the Oklahoma defense in their upcoming game?
Head coach Dana Holgorsen emphasized the speed of the Sooners defense during the coaches Big 12 teleconference on Monday.
"They've made some changes, unfortunately for us. They've got a tremendous amount of speed on the field, a lot more aggressive, a lot more attacking, they're blitzing more," said Holgorsen.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson reiterated what Holgorsen had to say when it came to the Sooners pass rush.
"A lot more heavier in the box this year, a lot more blitzing" Dawson said. "Schematically they're a little bit different this year, a little more attacking style."
A heavy and fast pass rush can only mean that quarterback Paul Millard, who is expected to be the go to guy for now, will have his hands full. Not only will Millard face intense pass rush pressure but the Oklahoma defense will apply heavy man coverage as well.
"A lot of man coverage, when it becomes man defense it becomes about matchups," Dawson said. "It's more about match ups than it is about schemes. You got to beat somebody; you got to run a good route. You got to get open and catch the football."
The Mountaineers racked up 237 total receiving yards in their victory over William and Mary including a 69-yard bomb to Ronald Carswell after beating the Tribes secondary deep. The Mountaineers will need to follow Carswell's lead and more of the receivers will have to get open by beating a tight man coverage that the Sooners will enforce.
However, if the receivers can get open there has to be a ball to catch. Millard recognizes the tight man to man coverage Oklahoma plays and will need to make good decisions when delivering the ball.
"Oklahoma plays a lot of man coverage. With man coverage those windows are usually a lot tighter. It's going to be about getting the ball out on time" said Millard.
Tight man coverage could force the Mountaineers to try and dictate the ball game from the ground. With plenty of running backs at their disposal, running the ball may be a key way to handle the Sooners defense.
The Mountaineers amassed 172 rushing yards against William and Mary and the team seemed to weigh heavily on calling run plays. Charles Sims led the team with 120 rushing yards. He and true freshman Wendell Smallwood both scored rushing touchdowns in the season opener.
Sims understands that this may not be an easy task when matching up against the fast front of the Oklahoma defense.
"It's going to be a good challenge, Oklahoma's a pretty good team, got a solid defense," said Sims.
All of the running backs for the Mountaineers will need to be prepared to bring their all. If the backfield can produce and balance out a pass attack the Mountaineers will have a better chance of carving up the Sooners fast paced defense.
WVU will travel to Norman as the underdogs to take on Oklahoma. The team will need to have a solid performance not just from the offensive side of the ball but on all three sides of the ball if it hopes to compete against the Sooners.