The fourth ranked Sooners have won eight straight and ten out of twelve overall games against WVU. The odds have shifted slightly through the week but they are still favored by seventeen points in what many OU fans predict will be another rout of the Mountaineers (think back to the atrocious 52-14 game from October 2019). Covid canceled last year’s meeting between the two, and the Mountaineers are coming off a fan favorite rivalry victory against Virginia Tech last week.
To date preseason Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler may not be playing as well as his stats would have you believe, admittedly not playing to his potential in their first three games, he leads an offense that poses a substantial threat to WVU’s defensive capabilities. Marvin Mims, Kennedy Brooks, Eric Gray, Jadon Haselwood, and Mario Williams have all been putting up impressive numbers for the Sooners so far this year, and each has the explosive potential at any given moment to exploit the slightest mistake made by the defense.
Their defense is averaging only giving up 17 points per game, and have recovered 5 fumbles while forcing 13 sacks. The latter should be particularly concerning to WVU fans considering Doege’s lack of mobility in the pocket. Although their first three games haven’t been the prettiest, they are still sitting with a 3-0 record so far, and on paper the advantage in every way over WVU.
Last week the Mountaineers defense began to come together, showing impressive stops in the red zone, and keeping Virginia Tech’s offense at bay most of the game. The Sooners are in the top 25 of the nation in total yards this season posing both a rushing threat and a pass threat. The “big stops” must come early, and must come often, and they cannot allow Rattler to put the ball in the air. They also need to improve the fumble recovery rate. Dante Stills needs a big week and to continue to lead things on the defensive side. Although the defense still needs work, they are showing improvement consistently (after being confused and seemingly kept off balance by Maryland’s offense in week 1) and are getting the job done along with special teams.
As has been the headline week after week so far this season, the offense yet again, presents the biggest area for improvement in this Mountaineer team. Week after week Brown has firmly stood by his decision to start Doege in the quarterback position. By this point any team that has done their homework knows, Doege is the proverbial setting duck against a rushing attack. The offensive line has done little to stop those threats this year having allowed 7 sacks so far. At this point there is almost literally a target on his back.
The OU defense will be the toughest challenge to date for WVU. They will try to speed up the tempo to keep the Sooners off of Doege, but that won’t be enough for long, they will compensate. Doege will be targeted quickly, and he will be targeted hard. Aside from his average performance this year he cannot continue to take the kind of hits he has been taking week after week and continue to escape injury. If Brown’s argument for not utilizing Greene more is because of his inexperience, one way to overcome this would be to have the two share equal snaps. There are worlds of difference between practice and game situations, as evidenced also by Brown’s insistence that Doege showed improvement in practice over the summer but we have yet to see it in games.
This would serve two purposes, provide the missing element of a quarterback with mobility and help take some of the pressure off Doege, possibly preventing a devastating injury that at the current rate is almost guaranteed to occur sooner rather than later. The toss up could be just enough to also throw a strong Sooner defense off balance.There would be an added element with a quarterback who can run to defend against, that simply no matter how big of a Doege fan you may be, just doesn’t exist when he has the ball. Brown has insisted week after week Doege is his go to guy, but splitting the snaps equally between the two, would almost absolutely be an unexpected turn of events.
I understand the quarterback is only part of an offense, and that the offensive line needs significant improvement as well. However during a game situation, the quarterback position is easier to make adjustments with than an entire offensive line is. This will take time, practice, and targeted recruiting. If they cannot protect Doege and give him the time and comfort he needs to make plays, then Brown must learn to take the chance and split the playing time. This also allows for opportunity looking toward the future to avoid us being in the situation in which Greene may be our starter with very limited big game experience.
There are those that say taking such a chance this week would be foolish. Attempting to become a two quarterback team against the fourth ranked team in the nation may be a gamble, but they also say nothing ventured, nothing gained. On a national stage in a prime time spot on television, this week could be the perfect opportunity for Neal Brown and the Mountaineers to make a statement in a big way. To do so however, he must utilize both Doege and Greene.