By Michael Kinney
Oklahoma is not trying to downplay the importance of Friday night game at West Virginia. They know exactly what is on the line, which is a trip to the Big 12 Championship and a possible spot in the College Football Playoffs.
“It’s always different playing a physical game then wake up and practice the next day,” safety Robert Barnes said. “We all know what’s at stake here. We all know what we have to do to come out on top in this game. Everybody woke up yesterday with the right attitude, came focused and ready to go.”
Tight end Grant Calcaterra agrees with Barnes.
“There is a lot of pressure around the game,” Calcaterra said. “Obviously, it’s high stakes, two of the better team in the Big 12. We know that we need to win this game if we want to accomplish the rest of our goals. I think today we were all a little more jacked up during practice.”
Since joining the Big 12 in 2012 Oklahoma has amassed a 6-0 record against WVU. The Sooners have reached the 44-point mark in at least five of those contests.
So when linebacker Curtis Bolton was asked about the intensity of the rivalry, he had a hard time giving it that distinction.
“I wouldn’t call it a rivalry. But they get rowdy over there. There’s not much to do in West V. I just know last time I was there their fans talked mess more than anybody else. Their players are rowdy. It’s a smash mouth football game. I like those. I like when teams come out rough. I’m just excited for those game. They talk a lot. They’ve got a good squad.”
While the record between the two teams doesn’t indicate a rivalry, the attitudes of the players do.
“I think they have a chip on their shoulder, just like we do,” Calcaterra said. “We both play hard. They’re a good team, we’re a good team. For the most part, we always battle it out. It’s kind of an unspoken rivalry, maybe.”
“I know last year, there is always somebody in pregame that we’re always butting heads with,” Barnes said. “Just doing their little taunting or whatever before the games. This year I feel like both teams have a lot on the line. I know it’s going to be a physical matchup.”
The Oklahoma defense took a lot of heat after their 55-40 win over Kansas Saturday. Most of that was due to the poor tackling display they put on.
“I thought we were moving in the right direction in that aspect of the game,” Bolton said. “We came out then and didn’t tackle well. That goes back to what we have to do during the week. Now we’re focusing on our tackling, not that we didn’t last week or the weeks before that, but that wasn’t the biggest issue that we needed to work on. Obviously, after last week, it’s still an issue we need to work on.”
Despite a pair of poor defensive outings, Barnes believes his unit can improve.
“For me, I know the guys I’m playing with,” Barnes said. “I grinded with these guys all summer, all fall camp and all that. So I’m very confident that when we step out there it’s going to be more physical, but we’re going to make those plays. Everybody on that field will do their job.”
High scoring affair
Oklahoma leads the nation in total offense with 576 yards per game and 71 total touchdowns. West Virginia is No. 10 with 502 ypg and 51 TDs. But wideout CeeDee Lamb knows how important the other side of the ball will be in determining who wins.
“We have to depend on our defense at some point,” Lamb said. “We know what we have in here and we’re a brotherhood. As far as us going out there and putting up numbers, we’re going to do what we have to do as far as scoring. And we’re just going to have to depend on our defense.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider