Mountaineers looking to end four-game skid against No. 12 Sooners Saturday night
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 02:11
After four consecutive losses for the first time since 1986, West Virginia will try to turn things around Saturday night when it hosts No. 12 Oklahoma at Milan Puskar Stadium for the very first time.
It will certainly be a test for WVU as the Sooners come to Morgantown with a 7-2 overall record – good enough for the sole position of No. 2 in the Big 12, with its only losses coming at the hands of the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the country.
"Oklahoma is going to be a tremendous challenge," said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen in his weekly Tuesday press conference. "They are a very storied program that is extremely well-coached. We are talking about a place that has won seven national championships and seven Big 12 championships."
Starting West Virginia defensive lineman Shaq Rowell echoed his coach’s respect for the Sooners, but wouldn’t discount his own team’s ability to show up in a big way Saturday.
"Oklahoma has a rich tradition of winning," Rowell said. "They’re one of the top teams in the country. They’re a national champion. Only teams they’ve lost to are the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the country. And I know they’re going to come out with their best, but we’re going to come out with our best, too. We’re looking forward to playing those guys."
Despite Rowell’s optimism, the Mountaineers have struggled mightily for most of 2012 – especially in conference play. After racing to a 5-0 start, the Mountaineers’ Big 12 title aspirations have now dissolved into nothing more than a desperate eagerness to just become bowl-eligible.
And getting their sixth win of the season against a rolling Oklahoma team Saturday won’t be an easy task for the Mountaineers.
Because after sputtering out of the gate, the Sooners have returned to the form that has brought seven national titles to Norman. In fact, Oklahoma has outscored their opponents by a whopping 191 points in their seven wins this season, and its defense is ranked No. 24 in the country, heading into Saturday’s contest.
"They have always been known for their defense and are very talented on offense," Holgorsen said. "They are very sound, and they are very physical."
The last time the two teams met was under a national spotlight in the 2007-08 Fiesta Bowl, a BCS game the Sooners were heavily favored to win. But the Mountaineers shocked the Sooners – and the nation for that matter – running over college football’s most successful program since the end of the World War II, 48-28.
So despite West Virginia’s well-documented struggles throughout the last four games, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was quick to reassure members of the media Monday that his team definitely wouldn’t make the mistake of overlooking the still-dangerous Mountaineers.
"Going down to West Virginia this week will be a challenge," Stoops said. "I don’t care much about what papers and media say, you respect the ability of the team. I still see a really good football team, and the first thing we talk about in our scouting report is that we’ve got three games remaining – we can beat any one of them, and any one of them can beat us. We’re going to do our part for this one game, so what matters now is West Virginia."
While Stoops tried to assure his team’s fan base the Sooners wouldn’t overlook a potentially dangerous opponent, West Virginia’s second-year head coach was trying to convince his team’s supporters that the Mountaineers’ aren’t completely dead in the water after the team’s longest losing streak in more than two decades.
"I understand the frustrations that have existed," Holgorsen said. "But we encourage everyone to come support the team. The kids are playing hard; the guys are motivated, and we are ready to get back to work."