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MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: WVU heading in right direction

In the eight years since WVU joined the Big 12, Mountaineer fans have been accustomed to weekly shootouts which became the norm of conference play. During the tenure of Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia won 33 conference games, but only four of those were achieved by scoring less than 28 points. WVU had exceptional play at the quarterback and skill positions, but defense was most often a liability.

The template has changed under second year coach Neal Brown. In the seven conference wins during his one and one half year regime, WVU has given up an average of just 16 points per game. Playing solid defense has now become the foundation of any Mountaineer success.

The West Virginia offense struggled early this season, with an inconsistent running attack, a multitude of penalties, and too many dropped passes. But we are seeing a better quality of play in recent weeks and a look at conference stats surprisingly show the Mountaineers second in total yards. During the last four games, quarterback Jarret Doege has completed 68 percent of his passes with zero interceptions. Receivers have been making plays, and a young offensive line with two freshman starters is showing improvement.

So while the current version of West Virginia football is still far from the top echelon of the Big 12, we are seeing signs that this team is headed in the right direction. In each of the three road losses the Mountaineers were competitive. At Oklahoma State the game was in doubt in the fourth quarter. WVU was in control at Texas Tech until a fluky scoop and score by the Red Raiders late in the game, and three crucial second half officiating calls went the wrong way in a four point loss at Texas. While these were still frustrating defeats, it is easy to forget that West Virginia was dominated in four games in 2019 by 21, 24, 31 and 38 points.

THIS SATURDAY: The eight years of matchups with Oklahoma since joining the league have been memorable. Two of the greatest games ever played in the 40 year history of Mountaineer Field occurred in 2012 in a 50-49 Oklahoma victory (the winning score in the final seconds) and the 2018 epic battle between Kyler Murray and Will Grier which resulted in a 59-56 Sooner win. We recall the opening kickoff blizzard in Morgantown in 2016, and a few years back when Oklahoma was scoring so fast and often in Norman that the Sooner Schooner tipped over and crashed. But what we have no memory of is a WVU victory.

Oklahoma stumbled early this season with two unexpected conference losses, but has turned things around with five consecutive wins in which they have averaged a scary 50 points per game. Saturday night the Sooners totally dominated a good Oklahoma State squad in a 41-14 win. Watching that one tells us that the Mountaineers are likely to have difficulties at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. While WVU is getting better, overcoming the Sooners at this point may be a bridge too far. OKLAHOMA 34, WVU 23.

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