Oklahoma's Dillon Gabriel (8) warms up before a Bedlam college football game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) and the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

QB uncertain No. 17 Oklahoma will respond vs WVU

With three games to play, West Virginia and Oklahoma are on the edge of the race for a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Even so, the teams are in much different places entering a matchup Saturday in Norman, Okla.

West Virginia (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) has built some momentum in recent weeks, winning back-to-back games.

“I think we’re starting to hit our stride,” Mountaineers coach Neal Brown said. “I think the story of this season is far from written.”

It’s a significant turnaround from West Virginia’s two-game losing streak in October.

No. 17 Oklahoma (7-2, 4-2) dropped back-to-back, one-possession games — a 38-33 loss to Kansas on Oct. 28 and a 27-24 loss to Oklahoma State last weekend in the expected finale of the Bedlam series.

Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel said he hopes the team will respond after falling out of the College Football Playoff race.

“I don’t know yet,” Gabriel said. “I think we’ll know come Saturday. That’ll be a big deciding factor in how we respond.”

For the Sooners, the biggest recent difference has been turnovers.

During its 7-0 start, Oklahoma had five turnovers.

In the consecutive losses leading into this matchup, the Sooners have six giveaways — four fumbles and two interceptions.

“When you turn the ball over, everything else just gets highlighted all the other mistakes that are there, even through 7-0 – nobody’s seeing that,” Oklahoma coach Brent Venables said.

West Virginia comes in with the No. 7 rushing offense in the country, averaging 218 yards per game.

In their previous two games, the Mountaineers have averaged 311 rushing yards. West Virginia leading rusher CJ Donaldson has rushed for 223 yards in that span while Jaheim White has rushed for 231.

“They have good chemistry out there on the field when you watch them,” Venables said, noting his belief that the Mountaineers’ line is the strength of its offense.. “They have a lot of pre-snap communication. They don’t turn people loose. They do a great job of protecting the passer.”

Last season, West Virginia beat the Sooners for the first time in the Big 12 era, 23-20, in Morgantown on a last-second field goal. Oklahoma is 7-1 all-time against the Mountaineers in Norman.

The Mountaineers have been without starting right tackle Doug Nester and wide receiver Hudson Clement in recent weeks.

Brown said Nester was closing in on returning while Clement, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, could’ve been used against BYU had it been absolutely necessary but that he still wasn’t fully healthy.

Oklahoma has it own injury concerns.

Weakside linebacker Danny Stutsman, the Sooners’ leading tackler, missed last week’s game with an ankle injury while running back Tawee Walker played sparingly against the Cowboys. He suffered a leg injury the week before against Kansas.

Venables was hopeful both would be ready Saturday, along with cornerback Gentry Williams, who suffered a shoulder injury against Oklahoma State.

–Field Level Media

Oct 12, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene (6) hands off the ball to running back CJ Donaldson Jr. (4) during the first quarter against the Houston Cougars  at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

WVU and UCF both looking to establish the run

West Virginia coach Neal Brown succinctly summed up Saturday’s Big 12 Conference road game against UCF in Orlando, Fla.

“Both teams need a win,” Brown said during his weekly press conference Monday.

That is an understatement, given that both the Mountaineers (4-3, 2-2) and Knights (3-4, 0-4) are riding losing streaks and are desperate to get back on track with the regular season approaching its final month.

West Virginia enters Saturday’s game as a loser of two straight — at Houston on Oct. 12 and at home last weekend to Oklahoma State.

The Mountaineers have been especially leaky on defense the past two weeks, giving up 41 to the Cougars and 48 to the Cowboys.

The task won’t get easier for West Virginia against a UCF offense that is fifth in the Big 12 at an average of 34.1 points per game.

Brown said UCF’s rushing attack, which is second in the conference at 232.4 yards per game, is among the best in the country.

“They’re creative with it, and you’ve got to defend the whole field,” he said. “They are going to use a lot of different motions and things like that to get the receivers involved in the run game. We’ve got to handle tempo.”

In its first season in the Big 12, UCF is still looking for its first conference win after four straight losses.

The Knights came close last week in what might have been their best performance of the season, falling 31-29 at unbeaten and sixth-ranked Oklahoma.

Knights coach Gus Malzahn hopes that performance can catapult his squad to bowl contention for the rest of the season.

While UCF has had success running the ball this year, Malzahn said West Virginia has a formidable rushing attack of its own.

The Mountaineers are fifth in the Big 12 at 191.4 yards per game on the ground.

“They are No. 7 in the country in time of possession,” Malzahn said. “They run the football, they get off the field, and they are good on third down. They’re No. 15 in the country in penalties, so they are a disciplined team.”

West Virginia swept the previous two meetings in 2003 and 2004.

–Field Level Media

Oct 12, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars wide receiver Matthew Golden (2) runs the ball back for a touchdown on a kick off during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers  at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Hail Mary TD pass on final play lifts Houston over West Virginia

Donovan Smith hit Stephon Johnson Jr. with a 49-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass on the game’s final play to lift Houston to a 41-39 win over visiting West Virginia on Thursday in a wild Big 12 Conference game.

The scoring play came after the Mountaineers’ Garrett Greene found Hudson Clement on a 50-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 12 seconds to play.

Smith had just seven seconds to work with after a kickoff return to the UH 43. After an 8-yard completion, Smith threw to the end zone as time expired, where Houston’s Joseph Manjack IV leaped and tipped the ball to Johnson, who fell across the goal line for the winning points.

The Cougars (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) won their first game as a member of the Big 12 Conference after two league losses to begin their inaugural season in the conference. Smith finished with 253 yards and four touchdowns passing.

Greene ended up passing for 391 yards and two touchdowns and added 47 yards and two scores on the ground as West Virginia (4-2, 2-1) had a four-game winning streak snapped.

The Mountaineers struck first on a 27-yard field goal by Michael Haynes at the 4:16 mark of the first quarter. Houston needed just 13 seconds to respond, the time elapsed in a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Matthew Golden.

West Virginia went back to the front with a 5-yard scoring run by CJ Donaldson with 13 seconds to play in the opening quarter. Houston’s offense finally broke through on Smith’s 2-yard TD run that gave the Cougars a 14-10 lead with 28 seconds to go until halftime.

Greene hit Traylon Ray with a 35-yard scoring pass on the Mountaineers’ opening possession of the third quarter to push West Virginia to a 17-14 advantage. Houston answered with a 15-yard TD pass from Smith to Manjack with 5:15 to play in the third.

West Virginia made it 24-21 with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Greene with 14:16 remaining in the game.

A Smith 5-yard scoring throw to Samuel Brown with 12:02 left pushed the Cougars into the lead, 28-24, and a 21-yard Smith-to-Johnson TD pass with 7:28 to play added to the advantage.

But West Virginia responded, cutting the lead to three points, 35-32, on an 8-yard touchdown run by Greene and a two-point conversion pass from Greene to Ray with 3:42 to play, setting the stage for the furious finish.

–Field Level Media

Sep 2, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) drops back to throw against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Allar shines as No. 7 Penn St. downs West Virginia

Drew Allar threw for a career-best 325 yards and three touchdowns as No. 7 Penn State captured a 38-15 victory over West Virginia in State College, Pa., on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.

In his first collegiate start, Allar completed 21 of 29 passes and didn’t turn the ball over. His favorite target was Harrison Wallace Jr., who caught seven passes for 72 yards.

KeAndre Lambert-Smith provided big-time playmaking for the Nittany Lions, hauling in four catches for 123 yards and two scores. Nicholas Singleton paced the Penn State rushing attack with 70 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

Garrett Greene completed 16 of 27 passes for 162 yards for the Mountaineers. CJ Donaldson Jr. powered West Virginia’s running game with 81 yards and a score on 18 carries.

After WVU’s opening series ended in a punt, Penn State got on the board quickly as Allar found Lambert-Smith, and the wideout scampered 72 yards for a touchdown. The Mountaineers responded after an exchange of possessions with a nine-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a goal-line dive from Donaldson for a touchdown.

But then Penn State scored 24 straight points, taking a commanding lead midway through the fourth quarter after Allar found Malik McClain for a 25-yard touchdown.

West Virginia finally responded after that score, with Greene finding the end zone on a 1-yard keeper. However, with just 3:34 left to play, there wasn’t enough time left for the Mountaineers to erase what was then a 16-point deficit. With backups in for the final series, Penn State scored once more, as Beau Pribula rushed for his first career touchdown.

It was the first meeting between Penn State and West Virginia since 1992. The two sides played each other in almost every year between 1940 and 1992, but the series stopped when Penn State joined the Big Ten.

The Nittany Lions will visit the Mountaineers in a return game next season on Aug. 31 in Morgantown, W.Va.

–Field Level Media

OSU's Spencer Sanders (3) walks off the field after an interception during a Bedlam college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Oklahoma won 28-13.

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Oklahoma State, WVU, try to finish strong, end lulls

The last few weeks certainly haven’t been what West Virginia and Oklahoma State had in mind in terms of finishing the season strong.

Both have been stumbling to the finish line of the 2022 season, but one at least will have a chance to end Big 12 play on a winning note when the teams meet on Saturday in Stillwater, Okla.

West Virginia (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) enters having lost four of its last five games, including a 48-31 home loss to Kansas State last week.

Defense has been the main problem in that stretch for the Mountaineers, who have given up an average of 37.6 points per game in those contests.

West Virginia has managed to put up more than 31 points a game this season behind quarterback JT Daniels, a transfer from Georgia who completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,107 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

However, Daniels was benched for last week’s game against Kansas State in favor of Garrett Greene. It’s not clear yet who will be starting at QB against Oklahoma State.

West Virginia coach Neal Brown said a big reason for his team’s offensive production has been improvement along the team’s offensive line.

“We’ve gotten to where we are playing pretty well up front,” Brown said. “We blocked (Kansas State) well.”

On the other side, Oklahoma State has lost three of its last four games to see a season that at one time had promise of a Big 12 title and possible berth in the College Football Playoff go to one that’ll result in a mid-tier bowl game.

The Cowboys (7-4, 4-4) are coming off a 28-13 loss at rival Oklahoma in what was the continuation of offensive struggles over the past four games.

A traditionally prolific Oklahoma State offense has averaged just 12.3 points a game in its last four contests.

“There’s times when you watch them on tape (and) they’re playing as good as most teams in this league,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “And then there’s times I’m sure that Neal would wish they would play better, (same with) our team.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers athletic director Shane Lyons celebrates with West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: West Virginia fires AD Shane Lyons

West Virginia fired athletic director Shane Lyons on Monday and named Rob Alsop interim AD, according to reports.

Lyons, the school’s athletic director since 2015, hired embattled football coach Neal Brown, whose job status is also considered tenuous. Brown is 21-24 as head coach of the Mountaineers. WVU is 4-6 this season.

Alsop comes from outside the athletic department as university vice president for strategic initiatives and is not viewed as a candidate for the permanent job.

Budget issues were a major factor, ESPN reported, noting Brown’s in-season buyout is around $20 million.

The likely approach for WVU would be allowing Brown to coach the final two regular-season games: Saturday in Morgantown vs. Kansas State and Nov. 26 at Oklahoma State.

–Field Level Media

Pitt begins life without quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) on Thursday night (file photo/Imagn).

No. 17 Pitt draws big backing in Backyard Brawl

No. 17 Pitt opens the season Thursday night in the first playing of the Backyard Brawl rivalry with West Virginia since 2011.

Host Pittsburgh is favored by 7 to 7.5 points and getting big backing from the public in a meeting of former USC quarterbacks.

The primetime Thursday game is the most wagered-on event this week at both BetRivers and BetMGM ahead of Saturday’s matchup of Top 5 teams in Columbus between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 Notre Dame.

Thursday’s game is the debut of former Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis, the chosen replacement for NFL draft pick Kenny Pickett (Steelers). He draws West Virginia’s new starting QB — and fellow former Trojans signal-caller — JT Daniels.

The Pitt money line (-275 as of Thursday morning) is the most popular bet by ticket count at BetRivers, while Pitt to cover -7.5 is the most popular wager by total handle.

Pitt -7 is the most bet game and bet type (spread) at BetMGM.

–Field Level Media

Nov 10, 2018; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers cornerback Derrek Pitts Jr. (1) celebrates after a turnover during the fourth quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Brawling in the front: West Virginia, Pitt open with critical rivalry game

West Virginia and No. 17 Pittsburgh kick off the 2022 season by renewing the Backyard Brawl series on Thursday.

“It’s been a great carrot for our guys as we’ve gone through winter, through spring ball, now through summer workouts to know that,” said West Virginia coach Neal Brown, whose Mountaineers have won three consecutive meetings with Pitt. “Man, we’ve got not only a game to look forward to but it’s a rivalry game that’s going to be in prime time. We’re not playing on so-called Week 0, but we are the premier Power Five game versus a Power Five opponent on Thursday night, and our guys are excited.”

The rivalry renewal is also a potential reunion for a pair of former USC Trojans quarterbacks.

Brown enters a pivotal season with the Mountaineers, who are coming off a 6-7 campaign in 2021. Brown is just 17-18 in three seasons in Morgantown, and while the program has made back-to-back bowl games, the Mountaineers are just 11-15 in Big 12 play.

Defense has been WVU’s calling card the last couple of seasons.

But WVU suffered some key personnel losses on that side of the ball and just three projected starters returning. There are depth issues in the secondary, but lineman Dante Stills should help this unit be one of the strongest in the league up front for coordinator Jordan Lesley.

Brown was able to woo JT Daniels through the transfer portal to run new coordinator Graham Harrell’s offense, which features five returning starters up front. Harrell was the play-caller at USC when Daniels was the starting quarterback for the Trojans in 2019.

Pitt won the ACC and went 11-3 last season and the program is doing its best to push players into thinking bigger.

“We would like to win a national championship,” Narduzzi said. “We want to be in the playoffs. We were one game last year away from being in that talk. … If you go to a 12-team playoff, we’re in it. That’s where we want to be.”

But Narduzzi has the difficult chore of replacing star quarterback Kenny Pickett and playmaking wide receiver Jordan Addison. However, former USC signal caller Kedon Slovis — who took over for an injured Daniels at USC in 2019 — has a chance to keep the offense humming under new coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr., who inherited all five starting linemen from last season and a deep backfield.

At any rate, Pitt is ready for a test. Any test.

“I feel like we’ve been in camp forever,” Narduzzi said.

Defensively, the Panthers return seven starters, including Calijah Kancey up front. The unit led the ACC in rush defense and limited teams to below 24 points per game last year, but replacing cornerback Damarri Mathis is a tough task, especially because the pass defense allowed a ton of big plays last season.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be on campus for this tilt, marking the crew’s first visit to Pittsburgh since 2005.

This game will mark the 105th edition of the Backyard Brawl, with Pitt owning a 61-40-3 record in the rivalry, though West Virginia won each of the last three matchups between the two programs from 2009-11, when both were members of the Big East.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Lance Leipold questions a call during the first half against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Improved Kansas looks to block West Virginia from bowl

Anyone who thinks bowl eligibility is assured for West Virginia has not put in the same amount of time scouting Kansas as Neal Brown.

The coach of the Mountaineers (5-6, 3-5 Big 12) sees massive improvement in the Jayhawks (2-9, 1-7).

Each team posted wins over Texas, giving Brown a common opponent to measure the teams against. West Virginia will seek to qualify for a bowl bid in their Saturday matchup at Lawrence, Kan.

Brown said most obvious is the impact first-year coach Lance Leipold has provided after previously preparing for the Kansas coach’s schemes. Brown’s last game as Troy’s coach in 2018 resulted in a Dollar General Bowl victory over Buffalo, then coached by Leipold.

“If you look at what they did at Buffalo in getting that to its peak,” said Brown, “they are great talent evaluators, schematically they do a really good job and their kids always play extremely hard. That’s no different than what they are doing (at Kansas).”

Inconsistency has afflicted the Mountaineers all season. They are coming off a performance Brown described as “clean” after executing 87 snaps with no turnovers and three penalties while amassing 459 yards in beating Texas 31-23.

West Virginia will attempt to match its longest win streak (two) of the season behind Jarret Doege, who leads the Big 12 in passing with a 249-yard average but has thrown a league-high 10 interceptions against 16 touchdowns. Leddie Brown averages 83 yards per game rushing and gained a season-high 158 yards against Texas.

Coming off its stunning overtime upset of Texas, Kansas played TCU to the wire before falling 31-28. In that game, Jalon Daniels burned his redshirt with his second start and completed 22 of 30 passes for 255 yards. He missed early practices this week while nursing some minor ailments but is expected to play.

Daniels’ favorite target has been Kwamie Lassiter, who ranks fifth all-time at Kansas in receptions (141).

The Jayhawks, however, could be without their top rusher, Devin Neal, because of an injury he suffered at TCU. Amauri Pesek-Hickson would be next up out of a thin corps of rushers after subbing in for Neal.

“When things come like that, it’s next man up,” Lassiter said. “I’m going to preach that every day as long as I’m playing football. So, it’s next man up. We trusted Amauri and we ran with it.”

Despite its recent surge, Kansas ranks last in the Big 12 on offense and defense in scoring and yards.

–Field Level Media

WV Lottery Director Resigns Day After WV Sports Betting Starts

The post WV Lottery Director Resigns Day After WV Sports Betting Starts appeared first on SportsHandle.

West Virginia Lottery Director Alan Larrick submitted his resignation on Friday, a day after the Mountaineer State ushered in the era of legal sports betting. According to a press release from governor Jim Justice’s office and multiple media reports, no reason was given for Larrick’s resignation. In a second press release, Justice announced that Doug Buffington, the deputy secretary for the West Virginia Secretary of Revenue, will be acting lottery director. The lottery oversees sports betting in West Virginia and the agency developed the state’s sports betting regulatory structure.

“After the successful launch of sports gaming at the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town (Thursday), Alan Larrick informed Gov. Jim Justice that he would step down as the director of the West Virginia Lottery effective Sept. 1, 2018,” read the release.

The post WV Lottery Director Resigns Day After WV Sports Betting Starts appeared first on SportsHandle.