MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is opening eyes with his spectacular performance in the Sooners’ first three games, and West Virginia’s secondary will face its toughest challenge on the young season.
Mayfield has thrown for 10 touchdowns, averaging 9.65 yards per attempt while completing 67.3 percent of his passes. In the last two games, he’s also run 27 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s a good player, a good leader,” WVU senior cornerback Terrell Chestnut said. “He’s very mobile. I think he will be as fast as any quarterback we see this year. He has a strong arm. Their players, team and coaches trust and respect him.”
WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen knows the 6-foot-2, 214-pound quarterback is a playmaker.
“He is fun to watch,” Holgorsen said. “He keeps it alive as good as anyone in the country. He has a talented, live arm. He can also run the ball, so it starts with him.”
Mayfield was a walk-on at Texas Tech to a starter before transferring to Oklahoma.
“We didn’t play against him when he was at Texas Tech, but we watched all his games so we knew he was a pretty good player a couple of years ago,” Holgorsen said in his weekly Big 12 telecast.
The Mountaineers’ defense has drastically improved since last season. WVU leads the FBS in points allowed (7.7 per game) and turnover margin (plus-3 per game).
Now, the Mountaineers are preparing to shutdown Mayfield.
“We understand that scramble rules apply this week, and we have to stay focused on the pass,” Chestnut said. “We need to let the people up front worry about the run. We need to not worry about doing too much because everything will take care of itself.”
Chestnut believes the Mountaineers’ secondary is capable of stopping Mayfield.
“(We have to) Continue to do what we have been doing,” Chestnut said. “Play our game, play or scheme and play 11 man football.”
Mayfield knows the Mountaineers’ secondary is one of the best the Sooners will face this season.
“They’re veterans,” Mayfield told the OU Daily. “They’re probably the best secondary we’ll see for a while. (Karl) Joseph lays the wood. It’ll be good to go out there and get a good match-up for our receivers.”
WVU senior safety Karl Joseph is tied for first in the country with four interceptions going into week five.
Turnovers have been crucial to the success of the Mountaineers’ secondary. Chestnut believes all the emphasis on creating turnovers is the reason for this success.
“We have been emphasizing them since the spring,” he said. “And last year we didn’t do well with turnovers at all. So we keep stressing it every game.”
WVU’s secondary leads the nation in turnover margin and are tied for third with 11 takeaways.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops called Joseph an excellent player during his Monday press conference and knows the WVU secondary will be a challenge.
“We’ve got a great deal of respect for them, of course,” Stoops said. “We’ll hopefully make strides here this week in our practices and the way we’re playing to make some improvement and give ourselves the best opportunity here this weekend.”
Saturday’s showdown in Norman, Okla. should be an exciting one for football fans.