WVU still bowl eligible despite Oklahoma loss
NORMAN, Okla. – The fall afternoon in Norman featured untroubled skies, perfect football weather at 65-degrees and Oklahoma’s full-throated capacity crowd that came like the Romans in Caesar’s time to see the locals pound away on the captive gladiators.
Rumbling out of an end zone tunnel came the pony-driven Sooner Schooner covered wagon making its rounds before wheeling away again.
And then the skies turned an ugly, brooding cauldron of trouble for West Virginia’s visiting Mountaineers.
The one-loss Sooners received the opening kickoff, loosed their second-team quarterback on a 65-yard run and scored as easily as enjoying a free steak dinner from some benefactor.
The romp was officially underway.
By the time Oklahoma had landed enough haymakers to lead 45-10 at the half the game was almost unwatchable.
After nearly every play the overmatched group of officials tried to separate players from both teams. They rarely gave the impression they were in control. And the game’s pace slowed to near nothing.
Oklahoma registered 27 first downs and only had to punt on one failed series.
The Sooners rushed for 313 yards against West Virginia’s ever-yielding front-three defense. There were 333 passing yards and a jaw-dropping 646 yards of total offense from the dominating home team. Oklahoma quarterbacks completed 16 of 19 passes behind the near-perfect protection from the offensive line.
Each Oklahoma pass completion was worth 20.8 yards.
The dismal end to the regular season left the Mountaineers with a 7-5 record to carry to a bowl game.
Eight of the 10 schools in the Big 12 Conference claimed bowl berths. The only two to miss at least a six-win season were Baylor and Kansas.
So let’s bring on a runaway case of bowl fever.
The Big 12 has ties with six bowls, not including the “Final Four” of college football that will determine the national championship.
Marauding Oklahoma could be one of those “Final Four” teams if it beats Texas Christian in the conference championship game this weekend.
The other bowls that accept Big 12 teams are the Heart of Dallas, Cactus, Camping World, Texas Bowl, Alamo and Liberty. All six of those bowls take place from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30.
The first-year Frisco Bowl in Texas will take one at-large team and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas will take two at-large teams. The Peach Bowl in Atlanta also has two at-large teams playing. West Virginia will not be going to either the Cotton Bowl or Peach Bowl.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier missed the Oklahoma mismatch with a finger injury on his throwing hand. He could return for a bowl game. But if he doesn’t, Chris Chugunov would be back for only the second start of his career.
No matter West Virginia’s bowl destination, it will be in a place of where the weather isn’t often spiced with sleet, snow or freezing rain.
The Cactus Bowl is in Phoenix, the Camping World is in Orlando, the Texas Bowl in Houston, the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio and the Liberty is to be staged in Memphis at 12:30 p.m.
Game time weather in Norman was gracious. The brilliant sunshine and comfortable temperature didn’t do anything for West Virginia’s much slower defensive front eight that was continually passed by Sooner runners as well as pass receivers.
The post-play jawing, shoving and stand-offs didn’t do anything for West Virginia’s 35-point halftime deficit.
Since it has joined the Big 12, West Virginia has not beaten the Sooners.
Is “Bowl Fever” a priority on your Christmas want list? Are you trying to coax Santa Claus into giving you two 50-yard line seats to West Virginia’s bowl festivities? Or are you remembering the carnage in Norman and staving off bowl fever with a mustard plaster made of equal parts reality, obvious Mountaineer weaknesses and too many ordinary players, in addition to losses to Texas, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Texas Christian and the numbing in Norman?