MORGANTOWN, WV – The Sooners defeated West Virginia 59-56 Friday night in Morgantown, punching their ticket to Arlington for a rematch with Texas and a shot at their unprecedented fourth straight Big 12 title. That much, including the score, really shouldn’t have come as any surprise to anyone. What was a surprise is that the Sooner defense, which was abjectly incompetent most of the night, punctuated that futility with a couple of moments of brilliance that resulted in two (TWO!!) defensive touchdowns that proved critical in the win. If we are going to roast them (and we are, as we should) for their inability to cover anyone or hold on to a gift interception, or to get a stop on third and nine, or on third and 18, we must also give them credit for their strange ability to make big plays when they are really needed.
Kyler Murray looked every bit a Heisman front-runner, which he may end up being after this weekend. He completed 20 of 27 passes for 364 yards, three TDS, and a pick, plus adding 114 yards rushing, with a lost fumble, on nine carries. Kennedy Brooks led the Sooner rushers with 182 yards on 21 carries, while Trey Sermon, still slowed by the injury that kept him out last week, registered 12 yards on five carries.
Unusually, only four Sooner receivers registered receptions on the night. Hollywood Brown looked like his normal self for the first time since the TCU game, leading all receivers with 11 catches for 243 yards and a pair of TDs. CeeDee Lamb had five catches for 53 yards, while Carson Meier had two for 46 and Grant Calcaterra added two for 22 yards and a TD.
WVU took the opening kickoff and scored on a nine-play, 75-yard drive, capped by Will Grier’s 41-yard bomb to David Sills on third and seven. The Mountaineers led 7-0 4:57 into the game. The Sooners would answer quickly. After Tre Brown returned the kickoff to the 19, Sermon ran for four, then Murray carried for seven. Completions of three and eight yards to Hollywood Brown made it first down at the OU 41. After another four-yard run from Sermon, Murray ducked out the right side on a called QB keeper and jetted up the sideline for the score, sprung to the end zone by a great downfield block from Lamb. The game was tied at seven with 7:19 to play in the first quarter.
The tennis match then continued, as WVU went 75 yards in 10 plays. The big plays were a 15-yard completion from Grier to Sills on third and nine, a 13-yard run from Marcel Pettaway, and a 20-yard pass to Trevon Wesco. The scoring play was a seven-yard Pettaway run that made it 14-7 WVU with 3:51 to play in the first quarter.
OU responded with a seven-play, 72-yard drive for a TD. Tre Brown returned the kickoff to the OU 28 and was upended with the ball coming loose. Fortunately, the call on the field was that the ground had caused the fumble, and a long replay review resulted in the call standing. Brooks ran for seven yards, then Murray hit Hollywood Brown for 13. Two plays later, a 26-yard Brooks run made it first down at the WVU 26. After a pair of running plays netted only a yard, Murray patiently hit Brown wide open crossing the end zone for the score that made it 14-14 with 1:31 to play in the first quarter.
WVU was the first to falter on offense on the ensuing possession. The Mountaineers moved the ball to the Sooner eight-yard line, converting a fourth and two along the way. Grier hit Gary Jennings for a score on third and four from there, but the play was called back for a blatant pick, which left WVU with versthird and 19 from the OU 23. Kennedy McKoy carried for 13 yards, and Dana Holgorsen decided to go for it on fourth and six from the 10. Grier’s pass to the end zone was overthrown, and the Sooners took over on downs.
Unfortunately, they could not take advantage of the first stop of the game. A 23-yard pass from Murray to Hollywood Brown converted a third and six from the OU 26, then a 10-yard connection to Lamb made it first down at the WVU 38. Murray carried on the next play and was loose in the WVU secondary, but had the ball popped out at the Mountaineer 31. Kenny Robinson recovered for WVU to end the Sooner scoring threat.
WVU went three and out and punted the Sooners to their own 34. On the next play, Murray found Hollywood Brown wide open, but he was dragged down by the face mask (with no call) at the WVU one-yard line. Sermon took it in from there and it was 21-14 OU with 7:12 to play in the first half.
WVU would again go 75 yards to tie it up at 21 on the ensuing possession. They did not even get to a third down on the drive, which was capped by a 10-yard pass from Grier to Sills with 4:14 to play in the half. The Sooners then struck quickly again, with Brooks carrying for seven yards, then busting open a 68-yard TD run that made it 28-21 Sooners with 3:30 to play in the first half.
The Sooner defense would then get in on the scoring. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Caleb Kelly sacked Grier and popped the ball out of this hands. Kelly scooped it up himself and took it in from the WVU 10, and all of a sudden it was 35-21 Sooners with 3: 06 to play in the first half.
WVU got back within a score before halftime on a 13-play, 81-yard drive. They converted a third and 10 and a fourth and four along the way. McKoy’s one-yard plunge with 18 seconds left in the half made it 35-28. The Sooners took a knee, and the teams went to the locker room.
OU took the second half kickoff and Tre Brown returned it 43 yards to the WVU 47. Murray hit Calcaterra down the seam for 20 yards, then Brooks ran for 12 and a first down at the Mountaineer 15. However three plays later, Murray underthrew a pass for Calcaterra in the end zone that was picked off by Robinson to end the Sooner threat. Five plays later, a 57-yard TD pass from Grier to Jennings tied the game at 35 with 10:32 to play in the third quarter.
The Sooners would move quickly from their own 18 to the WVU 18 on the ensuing drive, with the big plays coming on a 23-yard pass to Lamb and a 13-yard Brooks run. Facing third and four from the WVU 18, Murray hit Lamb for three yards. The Sooners lined up to go for it on fourth and one, but Carson Meier jumped, and OU eschewed a try at fourth and six and settled for a 37-yard Austin Seibert field goal that made it 38-35 OU with 5:52 to play in the third quarter.
The Mountaineers would take the lead right back. WVU converted a third and 10 to move the ball to the OU 46. Two plays later, an illegal hands to the face penalty pushed them back to a second and 25. Two plays after that, on third and 18, Grier hit a wide-open Jennings for 52 yards to the Sooner two-yard line. Three plays later Grier snuck it in and it was 42-38 WVU with 1:52 to play in the third quarter.
After a fair catch on the ensuing kickoff put the ball at the 25, the Sooners gained nothing on two plays, leaving them with third and 10 and the home crowd in a frenzy. Murray calmly stood in the pocket and floated a ridiculous ball to Hollywood Brown for 30 yards and a first down at the WVU 45. On the next play, Murray hit Brown on a shallow cross. He shook a tackler near the line of scrimmage, turned upfield and cut off a great downfield block and broke into the clear for the touchdown. The Sooners had the lead back at 45-42 with 35 seconds to play in the third quarter. The lead would not see the end of the quarter..
Grier threw two incomplete passes to set up third and 10 from the WVU 25. He then hit Jennings splitting the Sooner secondary for 75 yards and a TD. WVU led 49-45 with 17 seconds to play in the third.
The Sooners started the ensuing drive at their own 20. Murray hit Meier for 25 yards, then Brooks ran for 20 more and Hollywood Brown caught one for 11 and a first down at the WVU 24. Brooks lost two, then Murray hit Meier again for 21 to the Mountaineer five. The Sooners couldn’t punch it in on three plays from there, leaving them with fourth and goal from the two. Murray stood in the pocket and calmly hit a wide open Calcaterra for the TD to make it 52-49 Sooners with 11:19 to play in the game.
The ensuing series would decide the contest. McKoy broke a run the length of the field on the first play of the series, and was hauled down inside the Sooner five-yard line. However, T.J. Simmons of WVU was called for blocking a Sooner defender all the way into the Mountaineer bench, a flag that was thrown on the Sooners earlier in the season. Thus, instead of first and goal, the Mountaineers were penalized 15 yards from the spot of the foul, turning a near-TD into only a gain of 18 yards. Two plays later, WVU got one of several bad pass interference calls on the Sooner secondary, which should at least get the benefit of not having bogus penalties called on them regularly. That made it first down at the OU 42. On the next play, Grier was pressured and slung around and the ball went flying out of his grasp. The Mountaineers couldn’t secure it, and Buzzy Bolton picked it up and ran it in from 48 yards out to give the Sooners a 59-49 lead with 9:58 to play in the game.
WVU went three and out on the ensuing possession, and the Sooners had a chance to put them away. However, OU promptly registered its only three and out of the night, and Seibert punted for the first time since the OSU game. The punt went into the end zone, and WVU took over on their 20 with 7:15 to play. The OU defense stiffened and pushed WVU to a fourth and eight from their own 22. Holgorsen correctly sensed that punting would likely result in the end of WVU’s chance to win, so they went for it and were rewarded with another bogus pass interference call that gave them a first down at their 37. On the next play, Grier floated a duck of a pass that landed right in the arms of Delarrin Turner-Yell . . . who promptly dropped it. Five plays later, Pettaway took it in from 17 yards out and it was 59-56 Sooners with 4:20 to play in the game.
The Mountaineers went onside kick and got a bounce and a scramble for the ball that fortunately ended up in the hands of Hollywood Brown. WVU turned out to be offsides anyway, but it was a bit of a nail-biter for a few moments. The Sooners had the ball at the WVU 45 and needed to kill off 4:17 to secure the win. Brooks ran for three yards, then four, but was stuffed for a loss of two on third down, leaving OU with fourth and five from the WVU40. The only call was to go for it, and the Sooners did, after WVU used its second time out of the half.
Murray dropped back to pass and stood in the pocket for what seemed an eternity before finding Lamb for eight yards and a first down at the Mountaineer 32. After Brooks ran for a yard and WVU used its final time out, Murray kept around the right side for 17 yards and the clinching first down. Two plays from the victory formation later, OU had a hard-fought 59-56 win.
The victory secured a trip to Arlington a week from Saturday and a chance to win an unprecedented fourth straight Big 12 title, to avenge the three-point loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl, and maybe to still get into the Playoff, depending on what happens elsewhere. Texas secured their spot in Arlington earlier Friday with a typically Texas 24-17 win over Kansas in Lawrence. Frankly, without some help from the officials there, the Horns might have lost to Kansas in football, which has happened recently, as some of you might know. The Sooners and Longhorns will meet for the second time in the same season for the first time since 1903, and for the first time outside the City of Dallas since 1923. Given the venue and the stakes, this figures to be the biggest OU-Texas game in memory. Can’t wait. See you at JerryWorld, and BEAT THE HELL OUTTA TEXAS!!!