Led by senior linebacker Eric Striker’s 13 tackles and cornerback Jordan Thomas’s two interceptions, the Oklahoma Sooners opened Big 12 Conference play with a convincing 44-24 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday in Norman.
When the final gun sounded, the OU defense had forced five West Virginia turnovers and recorded seven sacks of Mountaineers quarterback Skyler Howard, holding the high-powered West Virginia offense to 369 total yards.
The Sooner offense scored the only points of the first quarter when quarterback Baker Mayfield found tight end Mark Andrews for a 17-yard touchdown strike.
Early in the second quarter, West Virginia made it 7-7 when Rushel Shell scored on a five yard run. The rest of the first half was all OU. First, Mayfield connected with reliable target Sterling Shepard for a 28-yard scoring strike to make it 14-7. Freshman kicker Austin Seibert tacked on three more points when he booted a 40-yard field goal.
With just over two minutes left before intermission, running back Joe Mixon showed his explosiveness when he found pay-dirt on a 35-yard run, the first rushing touchdown of his OU career and the Sooners took a 24-7 lead into the locker room.
West Virginia answered the bell in the second half by scoring the next 10 points on a one yard touchdown pass from Howard to Jovon Durante, followed by a 23-yard field goal by kicker Josh Lambert. A fumble by Howard was returned to the Mountaineer 7-yard line by OU defensive end D.J. Ward but the Sooners had to settle for another Seibert field goal, this time from 25 yards.
With just under a minute remaining in the third quarter, on 4th and 2 from midfield, Howard faked a handoff to the left on a zone read, finding nothing but green grass when he went around the right end and made it to the end zone untouched, closing the gap to 27-24. They would get no closer. OU responded when Mayfield lobbed a perfect pass to Durron Neal for a 71-yard touchdown with 13 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
In the final quarter, the Sooner defense got in on the scoring act when Striker strip-sacked Howard and linebacker Jordan Evans scooped up the loose ball and raced 41 yards to the end zone. Seibert scored the game’s final points with his third field goal of the game, this time from 44 yards.
Next up for the Sooners is a date with the Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in the annual Red River showdown. Kickoff is slated for 11:00 Saturday morning.
Photos: Greg Duke, Tulsa Today