Sep. 24—MORGANTOWN — It's unusual during the lead-up to WVU's game against Oklahoma to say the Sooners offense may be one of the biggest questions on the team, but through nonconference play, there is cause for concern in Norman.
After the matchup between the Mountaineers and OU was canceled last season because of COVID concerns within both programs, they will face each other to open Big 12 play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.
While the No. 4 Sooners (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) were expected to have a lot of fire power offensively—no surprise under fifth-year head coach Lincoln Riley—it wasn't pretty last week against a struggling Nebraska. Their 23 points were the lowest in a game since 2016, the year before Riley became the head coach (he served as the offensive coordinator Bob Stoops).
Quarterback Spencer Rattler, who is one of the biggest reasons many thought OU would be in the College Football Playoff conversation as a Heisman contender, put up respectable numbers against the Cornhuskers, but not what many expect with 214 yards and one touchdown.
To Rattler, though, it doesn't matter how it's done, as long as it ends with a win.
"I mean, we're 3-0, " he said. "Not much complaining, but everybody wants to be better. There's never a point where we want to stop and stay here. We always want to climb up."
And don't think WVU thinks it's getting a watered-down version of the Sooners. Head coach Neal Brown knows what Rattler is capable of after he threw for just over 3, 000 yards and 28 touchdowns in a shortened 2020 campaign.
"The thing about Rattler is his arm talent is so unique, " Brown said. "He can move. He extends plays. They can run him if they want to run him. They choose not to. But he has one of the strongest arms and one of the quickest releases that I've seen in however long I've been doing it."
OU only has two running backs on scholarship, which is surprising for a program of that caliber, but WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley laughed that the notion it could negatively affect how the Sooners run their offense.
"It's showing up that they're good, " he said when asked if having just two running backs shows up on tape. "They're both good players, and a program of that caliber, if they have a walk-on who's their third, I'm sure he's a really good player, too."
Kennedy Brooks returns after sitting out the 2020 season and leads the team in rushing so far with 210 yards and three touchdowns. The other is Eric Gray, who has 185 yards and a receiving touchdown in the passing game.
Where Brown had the highest praise for the Sooners was their receiving corps.
"I think they may have the best receiver group in the country, " Brown said. "They're really talented on offense — got great scheme and talent. It's going to be a challenge for us. Our biggest challenge so far this year without a doubt."
Marvin Sims leads the way as the big-play threat with eight catches for 168 yards, a whopping 21 yards per catch. Jadon Haselwood has a team-leading 14 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns, and Mario Williams has 13 catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end Austin Stogner, at 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, is a NFL-caliber threat, as well.
The Mountaineers (2-1, 0-0) are sixth in the Big 12 in total defense, allowing 307 yards per game (205 through the air, 102 on the ground).