Big 12 Titles

MORGANTOWN – Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops has led the Sooners to eight Big 12 championships (2000, 02, 04, 06, 07, 08, 10 and 12) while West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen is still looking for his first.

The two head coaches will take the first step toward capturing the 2013 crown when they meet at 7 p.m. at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium tonight.

“Oklahoma is very well coached,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said during Tuesday’s press conference. “Bob Stoops has been there for 15 years. They addressed a lot of things in the offseason. I don’t think they liked how they ended last year, just like we didn’t.

“Defensively, they’re not going to sit on their heels. They’re going to attack. They’re going to apply pressure and play man coverage, which they’re good at.

“Offensively, they’re not the thrilling team that they have been the last several years. They’re going to run the ball. They’ve got capable backs, quality receivers and big fullbacks. The receivers aren’t getting the ball as much because their main focus is to get (quarterback Trevor) Knight the ball and establish the run

“Everything they’re doing on special teams is different than last year. We will try to assess what changes have been made there.”

Both are coming off season-opening victories. OU pitched a shutout on defense and Knight rushed for 103 yards in a 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe.

West Virginia’s first win in 2013 came a little harder.

After marching down the field to score the first touchdown of the season – an 11-yard scamper by former University of Houston running back Charles Sims – the Mountaineers’ attack stalled while visiting William and Mary took advantage of several big plays by wide receiver Tre McBride to take a 17-7 lead to the locker rooms at halftime.

The defense righted itself in the final 30 minutes and kept The Tribe off of the scoreboard while junior Paul Millard established himself as this weekend’s starting quarterback by leading the old gold and blue to 17 second-half points and a 24-17 come-from-behind victory.

“It was just a matter of calming ourselves down when we had the ball,” Millard said following the game. “I felt comfortable in the second half once I began to let the game come to me.”

Comfortable is right as the first-year starter completed 19 of 25 attempts for 237 yards and a 69-scoring strike to redshirt sophomore Ronald Carswell that knotted the game at 17 with one quarter left to play.

Another first-year Mountaineer, running back Wendall Smallwood, gave the hosts the lead for good with a 2-yard rush with 3:22 left in the game.

Senior Darwin Cook sealed the Mountaineers’ 10th straight season-opening win with an interception on The Tribe’s next possession.

“For the most part, we were pretty good,” said Holgorsen. “Halfway through the second half, we came out and played with more energy. We shut them out the second half, which was obviously important to win.

“You can say what you want about the first half. The second quarter was bad. Defensively, the first quarter was good and the second quarter was bad. Offensively, the first quarter was bad and the second quarter was atrocious.”

A bad quarter on Saturday night and WVU will, in all likelihood, be saddled with its first loss in ’13.

“It’s still Oklahoma,” said the coach. “The atmosphere is rowdy and it’s loud. The people are right on top of you. They’re a lot like Oklahoma State’s venue. They have a winning tradition. We respect our opponent just like we always do, and we’ll go to Norman and try to win.”

A task made easier should the Mountaineers receive another strong rushing performance from Smith, who finished with 120 yards and one touchdowns on 23 carries.

“One of the big reasons why I came to West Virginia was the chance of playing big-time programs like Oklahoma and Texas,” Sims said. “This will be a challenge, but we welcome challenges. The atmosphere will be a ‘big-time’ college atmosphere and that will only make us play harder.”

  • The game will be televised nationally by Fox Sports with Gus Johnson doing the play-by-play. Charles Davis will handle the analysis while Kristina Pink will roam the sidelines.