With two games left, Oklahoma can only go up after its loss to West Virginia. The Mountaineers are the worst team in the Big 12, and the Sooners lost 23-20 on Saturday afternoon. It never felt as if Oklahoma was ever fully in control. As time expired, West Virginia nailed a kick to cap its first win against the Sooners in Big 12 play.
The performances as a whole weren’t all bad, especially considering the weather. But it was simply not good enough to get the job done against a bad West Virginia team.
With the game behind us, here’s how we graded each position group.
Nov. 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) warms up before their game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Dillon Gabriel had one of his least inspiring performances on Saturday against a significantly underwhelming WVU defense.
West Virginia’s defense entered the game ranked 95th by Bill Connolly’s SP+. It was 117th across the Football Bowl Subdivision in explosive plays allowed. Gabriel had chances in the first half to hit multiple deep shots before the weather fully turned awful, but he was unable to connect with Marvin Mims or his receivers. Mims failed to do his part, dropping a couple of passes that would have been huge plays in the game.
It’s fairly obvious how much Gabriel’s performance took away from the Sooners’ chance to win. This was his worst game of the season.
Running Backs: A-minus
Nov. 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma Sooners running back Eric Gray (0) runs the ball during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
No player on this Oklahoma football team has added more value to this team or their draft stock than Eric Gray. Gray has an outside shot at a top-10 rushing season in Oklahoma history.
He crossed the 1,000-yard mark against the Mountaineers en route to a 211-yard day. He carried the ball 25 times and added a pair of touchdowns. Gray also caught four passes for 12 yards.
Gray was largely Oklahoma’s offense Saturday, considering the passing game struggled.
Freshman Jovantae Barnes found himself back as RB2 and had five carries for 22 yards.
Wide Receivers: C-minus
Nov. 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. (17) attempts to jump over and collides with West Virginia Mountaineers safety Hershey McLaurin (13) during the third quarter at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Much like their quarterback, this wide receiver group didn’t have their best performance Saturday. Yes, the weather was a factor, but there were drops, miscommunication on routes and some blocks on run plays. Simply put, this group left meat on the bone.
Tight Ends: C
Sept. 24, 2022; Norman; Oklahoma Sooners tight end Brayden Willis (9) scores a touchdown during the second half against the Kansas State Wildcats at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
It wasn’t an eventful day for the tight ends. Brayden Willis didn’t catch a single pass. Willis was highly engaged blocking for running backs Eric Gray and Jovantae Barnes though. Ultimately, Willis made his mark there helping move West Virginia players to open up running lanes for teammate Eric Gray.
Offensive Line: B-plus
Nov. 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma Sooners running back Eric Gray (0) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma’s offensive took care of business again this week. Anton Harrison led the way and opened up numerous holes for Eric Gray when asked to pull from his left tackle spot.
The rest of the line continued to play well. The Mountaineers were credited with three sacks, but one of those sacks was a result of Dillon Gabriel holding on to the ball longer than needed.
The offensive line gave Gabriel ample time to find connections with his receivers. On a few occasions, that worked. Other times it didn’t.
Defensive Line: C-minus
Nov. 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Brent Venables argues a call with an official during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma’s defense will get blamed for the loss, and that wouldn’t be wrong. However, all of the blame shouldn’t be on its shoulders.
The Sooners played a really good first half of defense. The efforts of the defensive line made life pretty hectic for starting quarterback J.T. Daniels. The Sooners forced Daniels into some bad throws, including an interception.
The Sooners’ defense forced West Virginia to make a quarterback change in favor of Garrett Greene. Greene’s ability to run the football threw Oklahoma for a loop midgame. Ultimately, the defense’s inability to bottle him up was its undoing.
Ethan Downs played possessed, tallying a sack and three tackles for loss. Downs led Oklahoma in total pressures with five, according to Pro Football Focus. Reggie Grimes combined with Danny Stutsman for a sack, and freshman R Mason Thomas looked really good on 22 snaps.
Though Greene gave them fits, the Oklahoma Sooners were good against the traditional running game, holding the Mountaineers to 2.15 yards per carry on 39 attempts.
It was nice to see Oklahoma generate organic pressure without having to send multiple blitzes to do so. That’s a staple of the best Brent Venables-led defenses, and while it hasn’t been a common occurrence this year, it’s good to see it happen.
Nov. 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Danny Stutsman (28) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Danny Stutsman has registered two interceptions in three weeks after his interception of J.T. Daniels in the first half against West Virginia. Stutsman led all tacklers with 14 tackles, including nine solo tackles.
He also had half a sack for good measure. DaShaun White had 11 tackles and one and a half tackles for loss, and David Ugwoegbu finished with nine tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss.
These guys were flying around, fitting gaps, and tackling pretty well. The trio had four missed tackles in the game. Greene’s emergence threw them off, and he seemingly looked near impossible to bring down.
However, like the big boys that line up in front of them, this group played well enough for Oklahoma to win the game. Third- and fourth-down runs broke down this front seven, especially in the second half when WVU leaned on Greene to make plays in critical moments.
Defensive Backs: B-minus
Nov. 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Billy Bowman (5) picks up a loose ball and returns it for a two point conversion during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
For the second straight week, Oklahoma’s secondary wasn’t targeted as the weak link. The Sooners held WVU to a modest 203 yards thru the air. Bryce Ford-Wheaton caught a touchdown pass but he didn’t go off for a major day. A couple of big plays to Sam James helped him get 90 yards, but he was held scoreless.
Safety Billy Bowman played a significant number of snaps, effectively putting to bed any worries about snap counts going forward. He also scooped a fumble on a PAT attempt and ran it the other way for two points.
Freshmen Robert Spears-Jennings and Gentry Williams saw snaps on defense as well. Neither made noticeable mistakes, so the fact they were able to get meaningful reps bodes well for the future.
Special Teams: C-minus
Nov. 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Isaiah Coe (94) celebrates following a tackle during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
It was a rough game for Oklahoma kicker Zach Schmit. He missed two kicks, and a kickoff that went out of bounds gave West Virginia pristine field position. Not Schmit’s best day, but otherwise, he’s been a solid asset for Oklahoma this season.
Michael Turk continues to be Michael Turk. Three of his four punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.
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