Presnap Read : Oklahoma Sooners
by Brandon Priddy
Welcome to the Presnap Read, where I try to drop some knowledge on the WVU game to come, and more importantly Jed drops some knowledge at the end. And yes, it’s at the end for a reason – I know that’s what y’all are wanting to read. Momma Priddy didn’t raise no dummy.
So here we are. The conference season is finally upon us and excitement is at a fever pitch. The importance of this game for WVU can’t really be overstated. Win and you make The Leap into the National Conversation About Big Things. That’s fun because we haven’t been in the National Conversation About Big Things since 2012. We spent about a week on the fringe last year, but that’s been about it. Well, leave Norman with a scalp and that changes really quick. I’ve spent the evening texting and tweeting friends about this game and I’ll just say regardless of the outcome it’s fun to have that buzz again.
I’ll just pretty quickly jump into some of my quick thoughts. I watched a good chunk of Oklahoma’s week 2 game against Tennessee and here’s what I saw:
Rushel Shell and Company
A lot of folks have their eyes on Rushel Shell after what was probably his best performance as a Mountaineer against Maryland (15 carries, 77 yards, 1 TD). The thinking is if he gets going it will give WVU the best chance to control the clock and tempo. I’m not so sure that his biggest contributions will be with the ball in his hands. Watch the Vols take on the Sooners and you see UT tailbacks Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara hanging in the backfield on pass protection and chipping OU linebackers – most notably the imposing Eric Striker. When the Sooners bring the pressure, WVU will need it’s physical backs – Shell as well as Wendell Smallwood – to stand their ground and buy quarterback Skyler Howard a few extra seconds.
Other Things We Learned From The Vols
It’s no secret that Oklahoma possesses an aggressive set of linebackers who bring heat from the edges, but it’s worth noting that UT managed to catch the Sooners with a quick QB draw up the middle when quarterback Josh Dobbs darted up the middle on a QB draw on just their second offensive play of the game. It gained 15 yards and keyed an opening drive that went all the way to the OU 1 yard line. One wonders if that zone read that WVU has selectively deployed might be useful in this situation.
Best Stat Ever
My fun fact of the game: turnover margin rankings. WVU is #1 overall with a +3 margin per game. Oklahoma is 117th nationally, with a margin of -1.33 turnovers per game. The Sooners are an equal opportunity unit with 3 fumbles and 3 interceptions. For a Mountaineer defense that has spend a LOOOOOOTTTT of effort at creating turnovers (they ranked 122nd last year at -1.15 per game) the effort has paid off early in the form of 2 fumbles recovered and an insane 9 interceptions (4 of them by safety Karl Joseph). Remember the role turnovers played in last year’s game against the Sooners in Morgantown – WVU fought gamely but couldn’t overcome their 3 turnovers in the 45-33 loss.
Do You Feel Lucky? (Well, Do Ya, ‘eers?)
Speaking of turnovers, there was a pretty strong narrative that took form in the offseason that WVU had been downright unlucky in 2014. Not just 1 but 2 of our articles in the SignalCaller magazine touched on luck – my wistful look back at the magical night in 2005 when everything went right against Louisville and Mike Casazza’s examination of the lousy hops that had contributed to falling short in 2014 and what the team was doing to make their own luck. It would be tempting to say that Lady Luck had finally found her coonskin cap and musket.
Not so fast my friend.
The fact is WVU has had a little good fortune, but a majority of their turnovers – especially the interceptions – are more the result of intelligence and great individual effort than any particular play on the ball. Karl Joseph’s pick last week against Maryland was an amazing display of awareness and ball skill, from a guy who hasn’t always been known for the latter. In that same game Terrell Chestnut simply outmuscled a receiver for one ball in the end zone and then outran a running back to make him just uncomfortable enough to fumble the ball out of the end zone at the goal line. WVU has been fortunate, but I don’t know that I’d call them lucky just yet. But if a little sprinkling of that luck that we all feel is due them should come there way in Norman….well that could be pretty darn neat.
It’s no secret that the success of the WVU defense for the last two years has been found in their ability to hold the line on 3rd down. For what it’s worth, WVU currently ranks 24th in opponent 3rd down percentage with teams converting on only 28.57% of their attempts. Oklahoma has converted 43.18% of their attempts – good for 44th nationally. On the other side of the coin, the Mountaineers are converting 48.78% of their own 3rd down conversions (20/41) while Oklahoma is allowing opponents to convert 33.93% of their attempts – 57th nationally.
Bye Week Bob
I don’t know that this matters, but as I listened to my buddies at The Smoking Musket talk to voice of the Sooners Toby Rowland on their podcast (defiantly a great listen as you prep for the game) I learned that Bob Stoops is 19-7 coming off a bye week as Sooners head coach. That’s a win percentage of 73.1. His career win percentage as OU’s head coach is 79.5% (171-44). Does that matter? I have no idea. Just found it interesting.
Good Read On The WVU D
There were a couple great reads from Football Study Hall on WVU this week. First off, How West Virginia Is Playing Top 10 Defense, a great breakdown of the defense, completely with instructive GIFs. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
What the Signal Caller Sees
- Perine is still Perine, but everything around him has changed. It’s a completely different offensive system for one – they’re just not going to get him the ball the same way they did before. Also it’s a re-built offensive line that hasn’t provided anywhere near the running lanes he saw last season. Oklahoma and Samaje Perine simply aren’t built for him to do the type of things we saw last season.
- WVU needs to at least fight the special teams battle to a draw. It’s no coincidence that in many past games against elite programs, the Mountaineers have given up a big special teams play. Think the kick return TDs by LSU in (punt in 2010, kick in 2011) and obviously the big return by Oklahoma last year. These programs have an advantage in talent differential that becomes most apparent when players on special teams, where you may sprinkle a few select starters but by and large see second-tier guys. Put simply the gap between an elite program’s 30th best guy and WVU’s 30th best guy is larger than their 8th best guy vs. WVU’s 8th best guy. Create a situation in special teams where you have a small collection of those match ups and the chances for disaster increase. Dana Holgorsen has somewhat mitigated this disadvantages by placing his talented starters on special teams, but it’s still there. If WVU can simply earn a stalemate on kick coverage, that’s a big victory.
- Speaking of special teams, there was a lot made of WVU’s fake punt against Maryland last year and given that it was undertaken in the 3rd quarter of a 38-0 game, it’s understandable on the surface. But the fact is the fake was discussed all week as part of the game preparation. The WVU staff had identified a tendency of the Terps to turn their backs on the line and bail early to get into coverage, and WVU had made up their mind to exploit that tendency if they saw it. They did, so they did. It was simply responding to conditions during the game and maybe even getting a little something else on tape for teams to prepare for.
- Baker Mayfield has been spectacular at times, but a close viewing of the tape suggests that there may be a small chink in his armor. His legs may one of his more lethal weapons in his arsenal, but they could also be a hidden liability for him. In what is almost certainly a byproduct of an at-times-unreliable offensive line, he seems to bail on plays a bit early, often taking off even before things have completely broken down and relying on his running. The threat of a running QB is most effective in small doses, but with Mayfield he may be reaching that tipping point where his propensity to bolt renders his offense ineffective. Could that tendency manifest itself by turning what would have been an 8 yard pass on 2nd and 9 with a little patience into a 2 yard scramble after he impatiently takes off? We can certainly hope and it’s something to keep an eye on.
- Hey, how about that red zone offense, huh?
How long does it take absinthe to wear off?
— Big 12 Refs (@Big12Refs) October 3, 2015
Well that certainly looks ominous.
But more importantly, this is the best thing you’ll see all day. I’m a sucker for old school film and if you give me Don Nehlen and Jack Fleming I’ll follow you anywhere. If this doesn’t get you up for that early kickoff, nothing will:
Chill bumps for days, y’all.
So that’s what we’ve got. I’m going to try to start taking some questions, so if you’ve got anything, shoot it to email@example.com and maybe you’ll see your name in (tiny little computer) lights!
Thanks and LET’S GOOOOO!!!!!