MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia is finally over the Sooner hump.
Neal Brown’s 2022 Mountaineer squad became the first WVU team to beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 era on Saturday, edging the Sooners 23-20 at home. West Virginia snapped a streak of eight losses to OU, including a heartbreaking loss to the squad in Norman last season.
That was motivation enough for Brown and his players heading into Saturday’s matchup.
“That was kind of our talking point all week. [There are] not very many opportunities late in the season to be able to do something for the first time,” Brown said. “The guys took that to heart….We owed [Oklahoma]. We really felt like we outplayed them last year and to lose that game in that fashion, then to turn around and get it done a last-second field goal today was extremely rewarding.”
Here’s what the coach had to say:
On the offensive gameplan…
WVU knew that small ball would win the day.
“We knew made first downs, like explosive plays, are hard versus them, but we felt like we could kind of grind it out,” Brown said. “Time of possession is not something we spend a whole lot of time talking about usually, but we knew it was going to be important today.”
The Mountaineers dominated possession, holding the ball for over 37 minutes. The Sooners outgained WVU, but the victors were efficient on critical downs, converting seven 7-of-19 third downs and 4-of-5 fourth downs.
The possession game was especially important on the final drive when WVU chipped yards down the field while taking time off the clock to take the win.
“I thought we wore them down. On that last drive, that was a toughness drive – mental and physical toughness,” he added. “We ran almost six minutes off the clock, they used all three timeouts, and we were able to walk off with the win.”
On quarterback Garrett Greene’s performance…
Starting quarterback JT Daniels was not at his top game in the first quarter, so Brown made the decisive move to play Garrett Greene behind the center for the rest of the game.
Greene provides a different look for defenses. Daniels is primarily a pocket-passer, while Greene can make plays with his feet.
“They really started pressuring us early in the game with edge pressure,” Brown said. “A running quarterback is a much better answer for that than some other things.”
The weather was also a factor, as the rainy conditions made the ground game much more of a factor than normal.
The move paid off as Greene scored WVU’s first touchdown shortly before halftime. He finished with two rushing touchdowns and a passing score and led WVU to its game-winning drive while methodically winding the clock down.
“He always has energy, and I thought the drive before half, he made a couple of plays on that,” Brown said. “He still made some mistakes, but we were able to get out of some of those. I’m happy for him. He waited his time, and he didn’t complain. He went in there and did a nice job.”
On a crazy special teams matchup…
This game was decided in the third phase. Oklahoma missed two field goals in the contest, and of course, Legg sealed WVU’s win with his second game-winner of the season.
Special teams was a factor all over the game, though. Oliver Straw had another big game, helping WVU win the field position battle.
“Oliver Straw has been great all year. We had four punts inside the 20, so they had to play with their backs against the end zone a lot,” Brown said.
WVU made a game-changing move in the third quarter with the punt team on the field. Instead of kicking, though, WVU gave the ball to Sam James for a fake punt. He took the ball the five yards needed to extend an eventual scoring drive.
“Sam James got the first down, just barely, but he got it,” Brown said.
James also had some big kick returns that WVU was able to turn into points.
“Big win. We’re super excited as you can imagine,” Brown said. “The locker room was fired up. I know we’ve been waiting on this for a while against Oklahoma, so I hope Mountaineer Nation can enjoy it.”