On Saturday, Morgantown will be playing host to the two words that are sure to give any Mountaineer fan the tinglies: night game.
Also, it’s the conference opener against the 4th ranked Oklahoma Sooners. Combine this and you’ve got yourself a molotov cocktail of excitement around a WVU football team that has impressed many through its first three games.
Now that the very idea of upsetting the Sooners has become less of a question of “Can they?” and more of a question of “Will they?”. There is no better time to dust off that good ole Gold and Blue optimism and look at my keys to a West Virginia upset.
Clint Trickett has to stay hot
Clint Trickett has been playing out of his mind in this season. He has already thrown half as many passes as he did a year ago, and he’s completing passes at a rate of 75 percent. That’s up 23 points from last season.
In addition, the senior signal caller has already matched his 2013 touchdown total with seven, while only throwing one pick (against Maryland, forgivable considering he threw 49 times in that game and found the endzone four times).
And oh, by the way, he started this season by facing Saban’s defense.
If the Mountaineers are to have any shot at pulling an upset, they’ll need their quarterback to continue having his out-of-body experience; which isn’t out of the realm of possibility, even against a Bob Stoops defense.
The Sooners are seventh in the Big 12’s 10-team league in passing defense, giving up an average of 209 yards per game against Louisiana Tech, Tulsa, and Tennessee. None of those teams’ passing attack will be confused with that of the Mountaineers.
Trickett will also need to continue to make good use of his big play receivers, Kevin White and Mario Alford. Getting the ball to that duo has been a big reason why Trickett is third in the country in passing yards. If either, or preferably both of those guys can duplicate the performance they had against the Terps, West Virginia has a real shot.
Especially on special teams. Last week alone the Mountaineers had a muffed punt return, broken coverage on a punt that led to a 69 yard Maryland touchdown, and a blocked field goal attempt. Take all, or even one of those things away and West Virginia doesn’t need Josh Lambert to put on the Superman cape in the final seconds.
The offense had its share of blunders as well, adding a pair of fumbles to Trickett’s INT.
A 4-1 turnover margin isn’t exactly the key ingredient to a winning formula, and against a team like Oklahoma, it could mean nothing short of disaster.
Contain the Sooners’ rushing attack and get pressure on Trevor Knight
The absence of Keith Ford helps the Mountaineers chances. Ford is the feature back in OU’s three-headed system, but Stoops still has two solid runners to trot out on Saturday, as well QB Trevor Knight who has shown the ability to scramble.
The bottom line is the Mountaineer defense has to be better than the almost five yards per carry they’ve been surrendering this season.
To make this task even more difficult, Knight has only been sacked twice through the first three games.
The Mountaineers could use the added pressure on Knight, especially considering they’ll be missing star cornerback, Daryl Worley.
Knight is only a sophomore, with less than a full season of erratic games to his name, and he’s certainly shown that he can be accident prone. This brings me to my final key to victory…..
The Mountaineer Field Effect
Saturday nights under the Milan Puskar Stadium lights have a tendency to get a little rowdy.
Knight has almost no experience in opposing territory, and it would be a safe assumption that he’s never played in a stadium as hostile as the one he’s about to step into.
Couple that with his unimpressive 119 yard, one touchdown, two pick game against West Virginia a year ago, and you’ve got all the makings of “deer-in-the-headlights”.
If the place is jumpin’, and you better believe it will be, that energy could be enough to get the Mountaineers over the hump.