Oklahoma's pass defense faces another test when the Sooners travel to Morgantown, W. Va. to play West Virginia on Saturday. The Mountaineers feature some of the Big 12's most explosive offensive threats with quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. SoonerNation reviewed the Mountaineers' 55-34 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday and came away with three things the Sooners will need to keep an eye against WVU.
Austin is one of the most explosive players in college football. A week after Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk caused them fits, the Sooners face an even tougher test in Austin.
The Mountaineers use Austin in the slot, out of the backfield and on returns. The senior averages 15.6 touches per game and uses his exceptional quickness, excellent patience and stellar feet to average 12.4 yards per touch.
Austin creates matchup problems for any defense and the Sooners are no different. OU will want to limit the times he’s in one-on-one situations in the open field and will have to make sure tackles when they have the chance to bring him to the ground. The task of slowing Austin should not fall on the shoulders of any single OU defender.
Smith is the triggerman in a Mountaineers explosive offense which features several other weapons outside of Austin, most notably Bailey. Yet after a superb September, the WVU quarterback has cooled down in October and November. Only 11 of his 31 touchdowns were thrown after September.
The key, however, could be stopping the Mountaineers run game. WVU likes to use play action and a lot of its big plays come off play-action fakes or misdirection. If the Mountaineers aren’t having success running the football, those plays become less worrisome.
OU’s defensive line will be the key to slowing WVU’s offensive attack. The Sooners have the ability to stop the Mountaineers’ running game and get pressure on Smith against WVU’s offensive front without needing to blitz on every down. The Sooners front four has been disruptive at times this season and has the ability to do much of the same on Saturday.
Protecting Landry Jones
The Sooners appear poised for plenty of offensive success on Saturday. WVU likes to use three defensive linemen and bring pressure from various different spots within its defense yet has a tendency to give up big plays.
OU shouldn’t have major problems protecting Jones. The Sooners should be able to have some success on the ground, with Damien Williams and Brennan Clay, as WVU’s front three is not particularly disruptive. In addition, the Mountaineers will want to make Jones uncomfortable, which likely means blitzing, thus putting their secondary at a disadvantage when OU uses its four-receiver set.
Since Jalen Saunders joined the offense, opponents have struggled to matchup with the Sooners receivers. Jones had just one 300-yard passing game in OU’s first four games and has had 300-plus passing yards in four of the five games since Saunders was cleared by the NCAA.
There’s no reason to think WVU will be able to matchup well with OU’s four-receiver set, particularly since the Mountaineers have given up 16 touchdown passes in their last four games.
Bottom line: If the Sooners play well against WVU, all signs point to a happy plane ride back to Norman.