Viola: West Virginia Defense Has Revenge on Its Mind

MORGANTOWN – It’s no secret how the West Virginia defense feels about last season’s 50-49 loss to Oklahoma at Mountaineer Field.

They all remember how it ended.

With under three minutes remaining and the Mountaineers ahead 49-44, then Sooners quarterback Landry Jones led Oklahoma down the field and on a fourth-and-4 …

”… (The) quarterback saw us, gave away the defensive coverage and gave a little signal (for a) slant,” safety Darwin Cook recalls.

That slant pattern resulted in a touchdown and ended West Virginia’s hopes of an upset against then-No. 13 Oklahoma.

”I was sick,” said cornerback Ishmael Banks, who provided the coverage on the play. ”I felt like I let my family down, my teammates down, the school down, the state down, my friends down, everybody.”

Since then, Banks has had one word on his mind.

”Redemption,” he said. ”Summer, spring, winter … redemption has been at the front of my mind.”

The Mountaineers will get their chance at it Saturday when they travel to Norman to face the No. 16 Sooners.

However, Oklahoma, like West Virginia, is not the same team it was a year ago.

Sixteen players made their debuts with the Sooners in a season opening 34-0 victory against the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Included in that list is redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight, who has the attention of everybody on the Mountaineers defense.

”He’s a good guy,” Cook said. ”He can throw, he can run, he can do all these things. Everybody thinks he’s going to throw for 250 yards, but we’ll see.”

Added linebacker Isaiah Bruce: ”It definitely opens the door for a lot of things and makes us play more sound, and just staying disciplined and doing our part. Since there are so many options, he can take, and since he is a dual-threat, we have to play sound football and do our jobs.”

That’s a good reason why the defense can’t wait until the second half, like it did against William & Mary, to put its foot down.

”On defense, everyone has to stay on the page,” Bruce said. ”If one person is doing their own thing or doesn’t get the call, the other team goes the other way for a touchdown. Everyone is only responsible for so much. No one should be thinking about someone else’s job. Everyone has to just do their part and not think about it too much. As far as the breakdowns against William & Mary, we went over that on the film and made corrections. We’re continuing to go over that every day.”

Another thing West Virginia has gone over all week long is how to handle the 85,000 fans that will fill Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

”It will be hard, because they’re so close,” defensive lineman Will Clarke said. ”I’ve heard they’re as close as this wall. It’s about ignoring them and staying in tune with the game and not letting it bother you. If you don’t let it bother you, then eventually it will be quiet.”

Senior Shaq Rowell shares similar thoughts.

”There is nothing bad about a road game,” the defensive lineman said. ”Oklahoma has 85,000 people there. So that’s 85,000 plus the 100 on their sideline who are against us. There couldn’t be a better feeling than that. Your back is against the wall. Let’s be honest, no one expects us to go out and win. So why not go in there and play? I’m looking forward to the challenge this weekend.”

Tony Viola can be reached via e-mail at: