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OU FOOTBALL: Sooners remain in the hunt for the playoffs
Quarterback Kyler Murray get his first start Saturday against the Mountaineers.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Two of college football’s best quarterbacks will not start for their respective teams this Saturday when No. 4 Oklahoma and West Virginia kick off at 2:45 p.m. (ESPN) in Norman.

OU quarterback Baker Mayfield lost his starting job and his captaincy for grabbing his crotch and shouting F-bombs in Lawrence last weekend. WVU quarterback Will Grier won’t be able to flip the bird with his throwing hand as he dislocated it early in last week’s Texas game. Mayfield, who leads the country with a 199.3 rating, will get to play against the Mountaineers (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) after being suspended to start the contest. Sooner coach Lincoln Riley did not reveal how long Mayfield will ride the bench.

“We came to the decision after thinking about it here over the last few days,” Riley said. “A couple things are going to happen—Baker won’t be a captain for this game, which is a big deal to him I know, especially for our team because that’s kind of the leader he is and this is the last time he is going to do it on Owen Field. He will not start this game, but he will play.”

After choking back tears for a few minutes, Riley then complimented his quarterback.

“We’ve been through a lot together. He’s a tremendous teammate. He’s the best football player in America. He’s got a great heart that a lot of people don’t get the chance to see like I do. And I’m proud as hell to be his coach.”

Mayfield apologized for the incident immediately after the Sooners dispatched Kansas, 41-3. His antics were in retaliation for the Jayhawks not shaking hands at the pregame coin flip and for the Jayhawks taking premeditated cheap shots. But the senior signal-caller will not be starting his final home game on Owen Field, ending a streak of 37 straight starts.

Redshirt sophomore Kyler Murray, considered heir apparent to the OU quarterbacking job next year, will get his first start Saturday for the 10-1 (7-1 Big 12) Sooners. Murray, who transferred to Oklahoma from Texas A&M last year, had to sit out the 2016 season per NCAA transfer rules. This year, he’s looked impressive in the five games as Mayfield’s backup. He completed 10 of 11 for 149 yards against UTEP in the season opener and threw a 43-yard scoring strike to Lee Morris in the game. Two weeks later, he completed all three of his passes for 103 yards against Tulane including an 87-yard TD pass to Marquise Brown. Last week, he rushed three times for 33 yards against the Jayhawks.

The Sooners defeated Kansas, 41-3, after struggling through about a quarter-and-a-half. Mayfield completed two-thirds of his 30 attempts for 257 yards and three TDs. Ten Sooners caught passes led by Grant Calcaterra, Mark Andrews and Brown with four apiece.

Chris Chugunov, another redshirt sophomore, gets the nod to start at quarterback the Mountaineers on Saturday. He has played in three games this year and completed 24 of 42 for 270 yards and 2 TDs. After Grier went down, Chugunov was 14 of 26 for 189 yards and a touchdown in a 28-14 setback to Texas.

Chugunov is the fourth backup Oklahoma will face this season. The other three (Baylor’s Zach Smith, Iowa State’s Kyle Kempt, and Kansas State’s Alex Delton) combined to complete 63 of 88 for 950 yards and 8 TDs. Delton also ran for 142 yards and added three touchdowns.

OU’s defense has been vulnerable to the pass this year, especially the deep ball. Freshman cornerback Tre Norwood has performed well in place of the injured Jordan Thomas, who has been the victim of many long balls this year. Norwood had 6 tackles and broke up four passes in his two starts.

Oklahoma’s defense is going up against another Biletnikoff Award finalist in the last four games. Junior wideout David Sills V leads the nation in touchdown receptions (18) and has 57 catches for 903 yards, averaging 15.8 yards per catch. The other finalist OU faced was OSU’s James Washington, who caught 7 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Look for Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen to test the Sooners’ run defense. Last year, Justin Crawford rushed for 331 yards on 24 carries (13.8 per carry average) in a 56-28 loss to Oklahoma. Crawford is back this year, and he’s rushed for 963 yards (5.5 per carry) and 7 TDs. The Sooner’s defense has given up 140 yards per outing (36th nationally)—22 yards less per game than a year ago.

Five years ago, Holgorsen moved receiver Tavon Austin to tailback and Austin rushed for 344 yards (16.4 average) and a couple of scores. Oklahoma won that game by one point, 50-49. OU’s defense was worst that year allowing 193 yards per game.

OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops never seemed to have an answer to stop Crawford nor Austin. The Sooners’ defense is much better this year by allowing 140 yards per outing (36th nationally).

This is the last time 18 seniors will perform at Owen Field. Oklahoma has locked down a spot in next week’s Big 12 Championship. With a chance to qualify for the College Football Playoffs, the Sooners can’t rest on their laurels.

Mayfield gets on fire with a chip on his shoulder, and when he enters this game, he will burn West Virginia’s secondary, which has yielded 240 passing yards (87th) per game. The Mountaineers have given up 195 rushing yards (97th). Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon have taken over as the top Sooner tailbacks combining for 1,346 yards and 12 TDs.

OU has the best offense in the country (588.7 ypg) and the fifth-best scoring unit (44 ppg). Mayfield is a finalist for a plethora of awards including the Heisman Trophy. Tackle Orlando Brown is an Outland Trophy finalist (awarded to college football's best interior lineman on offense or defense, and Mark Andrews is a finalist for the Mackey Award given to the best tight end. All three should receive a lot of All-American honors.

Look for a balanced Oklahoma attack to roll up points on the Mountaineer defense that has allowed 29.1 points (85th) per contest.


*OU leads the series, 7-2, including five straight victories.

*OU leads 4-1 in Norman, including two straight wins.

*OU is favored by 22.5.

*Riley’s coaching record: 10-1 (.909) overall; 0-0 vs. WVU; 4-1 at home; 7-1 vs. Big 12 opponents; 7-1 vs. unranked foes.

*Holgorsen’s record: 53-45n(.541) overall; 0-5 vs. OU; 18-14 on the road; 27-26 vs. Big 12 foes; 8-18 vs. ranked opponents.

*OU is 10-4-1 in games played on November 25.

*WVU is 10-6 in games played on November 25.

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Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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