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Sooners: WVU Defense Among Nation's Best

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Defense wins championships.

It’s a simple phrase that football fans have heard time and again, and it appears it could be the key to West Virginia’s chances in the Big 12 this season.

With all the talk of Air Raid offenses in the conference, West Virginia is keeping pace with its 543 offensive yards per game, but it’s the defense that’s turning heads.  Through three games, the Mountaineers have held teams to an average of 7.7 points per game and rank No. 11 in total defense.

Oklahoma’s offense struggled to get going early in wins against Akron and Tennessee, and things won’t get any easier against West Virginia on Saturday. The Mountaineers have yet to allow an opponent to score in the first half this season.

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What makes the WVU defense so great is the play of the secondary. Led by one of the best safeties in the nation in Karl Joseph (4 INT), the Mountaineers defensive backfield is an aggressive group that takes pride in shutting down opposing receivers. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson allows the corners to play man on the outside which give him the ability to bring a lot of blitzes and stunts up front to cause havoc.

"It's a really good group, like you said, led by [Karl] Joseph, their great safety. They've got good cover guys, good corners. They mix up their coverages,” Bob Stoops said at his weekly press conference.  “They'll man you up [by] rolling the corners up on both sides, or one side and the other. They mix it up. They're good players. You can tell they've got a lot of good experience in their defense and in their secondary."

It’s not like West Virginia is beating the top teams in the nation, but their shutout of Georgia Southern  in the first game of the season shouldn’t go unnoticed. Last season the Eagles were second in the nation with 381 rushing yards per game but only totaled 195 yards on the ground against WVU in week one. Georgia Southern then went on to score more than 40 points in its next three contests.

With the strength of the Mountaineers coming in the secondary, it’ll be vital for the Sooners’ run game to get in a rhythm. Semaje Perine is coming off his best game of the season against Tulsa where he rushed for 152 yards, and the sophomore must ride that momentum at home on Saturday.

Perine did his damage against Tulsa with a makeshift offensive line, but OU’s line should feature a healthy Ty Darlington and Nila Kasitati against WVU. The entire OU offensive front must have a big game against West Virginia and win the battle in the trenches.  

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