In a typical Big 12 shootout that saw more than 110 points and 1,300 yards of total offense, No. 6 Oklahoma received and made its own breaks in outlasting No. 13 West Virginia, 59-56 in Morgantown.
While the Sooners’ offense was as efficient and explosive as always in putting up 668 yards on 10.3 yards a play, it was the plays made when Kyler Murray and company were on the sideline that tilted the game in Oklahoma’s favor. The beleaguered Oklahoma defense forced two Will Grier fumbles and returned both for touchdowns and benefitted from two West Virginia touchdowns (or almost certain touchdowns) getting wiped off the board due to penalties. It was the type of game where an OU defensive back was blocked into and beyond the opposing bench — and it turned into the crucial play of the game in Oklahoma’s favor.
The win pushes Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) into a rematch with No. 14 Texas, giving the Sooners a chance to avenge their only loss of the season, win their fourth straight Big 12 title and 12th Big 12 crown overall while keeping hope alive of a third College Football Playoff berth in Lincoln Riley‘s four years in the program.
Both teams opened the game with consecutive touchdown drives and West Virginia momentarily added a third until Grier’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings, Jr. was wiped off the board due the first game-changing WVU mistake — an offensive pass interference penalty on David Sills V. Rather than owning a 21-14 lead three minutes into the second quarter, West Virginia faced a 3rd-and-19. The Mountaineers picked up 13 yards on a Kennedy McKoy run, but, knowing only touchdowns would beat Oklahoma, WVU dialed up a 4th-and-6 pass, but Grier overshot his intended receiver, giving the OU defense the first stop of the game.
After its defense held serve, Oklahoma’s offense issued its first mistake of the game when Murray fumbled the ball on a 16-yard run to the WVU 22, keeping the score at 14-14.
Given a second chance to take its third lead of the first half, West Virginia again was stopped, posting the game’s first three-and-out and its first punt. Oklahoma needed only two plays to grab its first lead, hitting Marquise Brown for a 65-yard catch-and-run to the WVU 1, which set up a Trey Sermon plunge to put the Sooners up 21-14 with 7:12 left in the first half.
After two straight scoreless drives, West Virginia answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by the second Grier-to-Sills scoring strike of the night, evening the score at 21-21 with 4:14 left in the first half.
Oklahoma wasted no time in retaking the lead when Kennedy Brooks raced 68 yards for a touchdown, putting the Sooners back in front at 28-21. After the Murray fumble, Oklahoma’s next two possessions both found the end zone in just two plays. After its offense made a big play, the much-maligned defense came up with its biggest of the season when linebacker Caleb Kelly stripped Grier of the ball and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown, pushing the OU edge to 35-21.
West Virginia rebounded to go 81 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 1-yard McKoy plunge with 18 seconds left in the half to pull within 35-28, then, after Kenny Robinson, Jr. intercepted Murray in the end zone to open the second half, Jennings tied it with a 57-yard touchdown pass.
Another red zone mistake took points off the board for Oklahoma when tight end Carson Meier false started on a 4th-and-1 at the WVU 15, forcing a 37-yard Austin Seibert field goal, which was the closest thing to an Oklahoma punt to that point in the game.
Given a chance to take its third lead — and first since the opening frame — West Virginia capitalized. Grier found Jennings for a 52-yard gain on 3rd-and-18, taking the ball from his own 45 to the OU 2, setting up a Grier sneak to put the Mountaineers up 42-38 with 1:52 to play in the third quarter.
Oklahoma surged back in front when, one play after hitting him for a 30-yard gain on a 3rd-and-10, Murray hit Brown for a 45-yard catch-and-run score with 35 seconds left in the frame — but the scoring wasn’t done for the quarter. Facing another third-and-long, Grier again found a streaking Jennings, this time for a 75-yard score to put WVU up 49-45 with nine seconds left in the third quarter.
Again, Oklahoma immediately answered. The Sooners avoided another red zone disaster when Murray hit a wide open Grant Calcaterra for a 1-yard touchdown toss on fourth-and-goal, putting OU back in front and the game over the century mark, 52-49 with 11:19 to play.
West Virginia (8-3, 6-3 Big 12) was seemingly in place to re-take the lead when McKoy busted through the Oklahoma secondary to set up a first-and-goal, but WVU wide receiver TJ Simmons was flagged for a personal foul for blocking OU cornerback Tre Brown out of bounds, taking the ball from the OU 5 back to the WVU 43. A pass interference penalty pushed the ball into Oklahoma territory, but Grier was stripped for the second time of the night, which turned into the second Sooner defensive touchdown of the night when Curtis Bolton picked up the pigskin and raced it 52 yards to the house.
Unlike after his first fumble-six, Grier did not lead WVU to an immediate touchdown. Instead, three straight incomplete passes forced Billy Kenney‘s second punt, giving Oklahoma the ball with a 10-point lead. But the Sooners could not shut the door, instead punting for the first time of the game. This time, WVU went 80 yards in nine plays, pulling back within 59-56 on Martell Pettway‘s 17-yard run with 4:20 left in the game.
Rather than bank on his defense getting a stop, Dana Holgorsen elected to try and onside kick — which Oklahoma recovered. West Virginia’s defense answered the bell by pushing the Sooners into a 4th-and-5 situation, but, with the ball at the opponent’s 45, Riley elected keep his offense on the field, a choice Murray validated with an 8-yard completion to CeeDee Lamb. Murray salted the game away with a 17-yard run to the WVU 14 with under two minutes away, allowing the Sooners to kneel the ball and the quarterback to improve his Heisman resume with another sparkling night — throwing for 364 yards with three touchdowns and one interception on 20-of-27 passing plus 114 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
In his final home game, Grier posted a career high 539 passing yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, but his two fumbles proved the difference in the game.
The win is Oklahoma’s 17th straight victory in the month of November and 19th consecutive win in true road games. It was also the fourth consecutive game and fifth in seven outings the Sooners have surrendered at least 40 points. That’s a run that began with a 48-45 loss to Texas on Oct. 6, a loss the Sooners will get a chance to avenge next Saturday at AT&T Stadium.