A flashier West Virginia offense may come to passRun-based team might decide to test OU's depleted secondary
11:28 PM CST on Sunday, December 30, 2007
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – West Virginia is averaging almost 300 yards rushing per game and leads the nation in run-to-pass ratio at 2.39-to-1.
But quarterback Pat White said the Mountaineers might look to throw the ball more against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Wednesday because of the Sooners' defensive secondary concerns.
"I think we're going to open it up a little bit," White said Sunday. "We've been working on [passing] hard the last few weeks, working a little extra with the receivers to get that together."
OU starting cornerback Reggie Smith is out with an injury, and safety Lendy Holmes (South Oak Cliff), who was to start in Smith's place, is academically ineligible. That leaves a pair of inexperienced players – redshirt freshman Dominique Franks and sophomore Brian Jackson (DeSoto) – sharing time at OU's boundary cornerback spot.
White, who leads West Virginia with 1,185 rushing yards on 177 carries and 14 touchdowns, is also a very efficient passer. He's completed 68 percent of his throws and has only four interceptions. White has passed for 1,548 yards and 12 touchdowns – 11 to senior Darius Reynaud, the team's leading receivers with 59 catches for 691 yards.
OU's English feeling better: OU sophomore defensive end Auston English – the Big 12 leader with 9 ½ sacks – finally made an appearance Sunday morning after missing the Sooners' first three practices in Arizona because of flu-like symptoms. English said he had remained in his room at OU's hotel the last three days, resting and watching film. He participated in team meetings at the hotel but hadn't practiced until working out Sunday.
"I got out here [Wednesday] and started feeling pretty rough," English said. "It got pretty rough there for a little while, but I feel a whole lot better."
OU defensive coordinator Venables could have been gone: If then-Atlanta Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino hadn't taken the Arkansas head coaching job Dec. 11, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables could have been headed to Fayetteville, Ark.
Venables said he interviewed for the Arkansas job and it "went well."
"Had they not gotten Coach Petrino," Venables said, "their plan was to go with a proven coordinator, and it was down to me and another guy."
Venables, considered one of the top defensive coordinators and recruiters in the nation, said the "other guy" was Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, a former assistant coach with the Miami Dolphins.
OU LB Lofton likely to return: Oklahoma junior All-America linebacker Curtis Lofton said earlier this month that he had filed paperwork with an NFL advisory committee that attempts to gauge where players might be selected in the draft. Lofton, OU's tackles leader with 142, said Sunday that he hasn't received a response but that his focus is far from the NFL.
"I'm just focused on the game," Lofton said. "I enjoy Oklahoma and I love my teammates, and there is no reason why I wouldn't be back next year."
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: West Virginia (10-2) vs. Oklahoma (11-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Glendale, Ariz. (Ch. 4)