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Oklahoma Tasked With Slowing Down Another Explosive Rushing Attack in West Virginia

For the fourth week in a row, the Sooners defense will have to limit one of the nation's best rushing offenses when the West Virginia Mountaineers roll into Norman on Saturday.

NORMAN — Since Oklahoma’s bye week, the Sooners have gotten accustomed to trying to slow down potent rushing attacks.

No. 17 OU has been tasked with taking on UCF, Kansas and Oklahoma State, who all rank in the top 35 in total rushing in the FBS.

And this week, things will be no different.

At 6 p.m. on Saturday, the Sooners (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) will host West Virginia (6-3, 4-2), who boasts the country’s seventh-best ground game.

Running back CJ Donaldson Jr. combines with quarterback Garrett Greene to dictate play with a physical rushing attack.

The Mountaineers average 218.0 rushing yards per game, which is only achieved by excellent play in every facet of the rushing attack.

“They are physical,” OU coach Brent Venables said of West Virginia’s offensive line play during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “They play with confidence and really good cohesion, chemistry there. They work together well, like that marching band. You know it when you see it, you know it when you don’t. They have good chemistry out there on the field when you watch them… There’s not a lot of leakage there.”

The Sooners experienced just how effective Greene could be a year ago in Morgantown.

West Virginia beat OU 23-20, which was WVU’s first victory over the Sooners as members of the Big 12, in large part to Greene’s legs.

After taking over the quarterbacking duties for JT Daniels, Greene carried the ball 14 times for 119 yards and two scores.

No stretch was more frustrating for Oklahoma’s defense than the final drive of the game, where Greene and the West Virginia offense held onto the ball for nearly six and a half minutes to set up the walk-off field goal.

Donaldson, who paces the Mountaineers this year with 147 carries for 676 yards and nine scores, missed last year’s contest, adding yet another wrinkle for the OU defense to account for come Saturday.

With so much attention dedication to slowing those two down on the ground, Oklahoma will have to be mindful of when Greene drops back to attack downfield through the air as well.

“They seem very similar to OSU in their scheme,” OU defensive end Ethan Downs said on Monday night. “Got some more QB run game, very disciplined offense and defense. They've had a lot of games where they come up close in the score, and they're really talented. Any team can beat us but especially them if they play their good, disciplined ball.”

More help is on the way, the Sooners hope.

Star linebacker Danny Stutsman missed last week’s Bedlam tilt, but Venables said he practiced Monday.

Stutsman is still day-to-day, along with cornerback Gentry Williams, but getting Stutsman back to pair with the exceptional play of youngsters in Kip Lewis and Kobie McKinzie will give Oklahoma more depth to try and stay fresh as they work to stop the run.

But regardless of who is able to take snaps, the Sooners are aware they’ll have to play disciplined football to slow down West Virginia — something they struggled with a year ago.

“Our (run) fits, Coach V said that today in his meeting, he was just saying they came down our fits (last year),” McKinzie said on Monday. “(Greene) didn’t play the whole game last year. I think he only came in in the second half, second quarter I believe, and they did a lot of quarterback counter with him. So it comes down to our fits and our mindset.

“It’s just like last week, we have to be dominant in the run game.”