Oh So Close

NORMAN, OKLA.-No. 16 Oklahoma returned to its past, rushing for 323 yards on 57 carries en route to a 16-7 win over visiting West Virginia.

Senior Brenan Clay led the way with a career-best 170 yards as the Sooners improved to 2-0 on the season while dropping the Mountaineers, who return home to take on Georgia State at noon on Saturday, to 1-1 and 0-1 in Big 12 play.

West Virginia’s defense, which was torched by the Sooners for 662 yards in a one-point, 50-49, decision in Morgantown last season, held its own against the preseason favorites to challenge for the conference title.

The Mountaineers put together a 11-play drive midway in the third quarter, but surrendered the ball back to the hosts when junior college transfer Kevin White fumbled the ball after picking up a first down on a third-and-20 from the OU 35.

The defense responded with back-to-back three-and-outs, but the offense continued to sputter under junior quarterback Paul Millard, who completed 21-of-40 attempts for 218 yards and one interception.

Oklahoma put the game away with a 8-play, 44-yard drive which culminated in a 32-yard field goal by junior Michael Hunnicutt with 10:16 left to play.

WVU would get two more opportunities to pull out the upset, but a fourth-and-3 at the OU 49 ended with an incompletion to Cody Clay and a last minute drive ended with the old gold and blue knocking on the door at the OU 3 only to have their final chance at a score snuffed out by the Sooners’ defense when freshman Wendall Smallwood was tackled for a loss as the clock reached all zeroes.

West Virginia proved to be its own worst enemy during the first 30 minutes of action.

After taking a 7-0 lead on a 75-yard run by junior college transfer Dreamius Smith, the Mountaineers committed two costly mistakes on special teams and fumbled the ball twice as the Sooners took a 13-7 lead to the locker rooms at the intermission.

Playing its first road game of the year, WVU began its second possession of the game at its own 15 following a 50-yard punt by OU’s Jed Barnett. Millard hit Kevin White for a 10-yard gain to the 25.

Millard’s next attempt, to Dakiel Shorts, was incomplete, but Smith, who finished with 984 yards and 17 touchdowns at Butler Community College, made the play of the game when he broke through the OU defensive front, shook off several wouldbe tackles and raced down the left sideline 75 yards for the first score of the game.

Josh Lambert’s point after kick would be good and the sellout crowd at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium sat stunned as the 21-point underdogs took the early advantage.

An advantage that the visitors would surrender after a personal foul for roughing the punter would result in a 44-yard field goal by the Sooners’ Michael Hunnicutt and a muffed punt by freshman Mario Alford was turned into a 1-yard scoring pass from OU’s Trevor Knight to Trey Millard.

The hosts would add three more points to their lead just before the half when Hunnicutt culminated a 13-play, 83-yard drive with a 21-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the half.