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Oklahoma’s Rattler will be a handful for WVU

MORGANTOWN — Through three games, West Virginia has taken on some of the nation’s best quarterbacks.

Week 1 saw Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa, a former Alabama recruit, throw for more than 330 yards to go along with three touchdowns. Two weeks later, Virginia Tech’s Braxton Burmeister threw for more than 200 yards while remaining a threat to tuck the ball and run.

Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma’s sophomore quarterback and a former five-star prospect, is an entirely different beast.

“Every quarterback is a little bit different,” co-defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “They have their different strengths. Burmeister was really fast, the kid at Maryland was really elusive and then threw the ball well on the move. Spencer is good all the way around.”

Rattler and the Sooners will host West Virginia on Saturday night to open Big 12 play. It will be the first matchup between the two teams since 2019 after last season’s scheduled game was postponed and later canceled.

The preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, Rattler enters Saturday’s matchup having completed roughly 75 percent of his passes this season enroute to throwing for seven touchdowns and more than 700 yards. He’s added an additional two scores with his feet.

“The thing about Rattler is his arm talent is so unique,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “He can move, he extends plays. They can run him if they want to, but they choose not to. He has one of the strongest arms and one of the quickest releases that I’ve seen in however long I’ve been doing it.”

It’s not just Rattler that the Mountaineers have to contend with. Oklahoma’s wide receiver corps is top tier, Brown said Tuesday, featuring Marvin Mims, one of the most decorated receivers in Texas high school football history, and Jadon Haselwood, the No. 1 receiver in the 2019 recruiting class.

“I think they may have the best receiver group in the country in totality, and they’ve got an All-Big 12 player at tight end and, oh, by the way, a Heisman Trophy quarterback,” Brown said. “They’re really talented on offense, got great scheme and talent.”

Defensively, Oklahoma touts a potent and experienced group. Brown called defensive linemen Nik Bonitto, Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey high-round NFL draft picks.

Add arguably the best special teams unit in the country, and the Sooners are — on paper — the top team West Virginia will play this season.

“It’s a challenge in all three phases, without a doubt,” Brown said. “They look like what you think Oklahoma’s going to look like when you turn on the film.”

West Virginia heads to Norman coming off a 27-21 win over Virginia Tech. The Mountaineers have averaged 39 points per game this season, but will need to do something more in order to overcome the Sooners, who average 46 points per game.

“We know certainly what we’re flying out to go do,” co-offensive coordinator Gerad Parker said. “We know that they’ve scored a high level of points and put up a ton of production. That side, we’ll let the defense, Jordan, those guys worry about. On our side of things, we know we’ve got a job to do to keep ourselves in the game to where we find a way to score one more than them.”

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