NORMAN – Lincoln Riley has called Friday’s road trip to West Virginia “kind of a perfect script” for his football program.
The 7 p.m. contest will have a winner-take-all feel to it for the Sooners, who are guaranteed a spot in the Big 12 championship game with a victory in Morgantown.
A loss combined with a Texas win over Kansas denies OU an opportunity for an unprecedented fourth consecutive league title.
“Listen, we know the challenge. This is how this one probably should come down to,” Riley said on Monday. “It’s kind of a perfect script for us, going and playing on the road, tough environment, good football team, lot of things on the line. That’s just the way we like it. These are the kind of games we’ve been able to win here for the last few years.
“Those games, those wins have led to championships. This game’s obviously a critical game to continue that trend, so we’re excited about the challenge.”
Riley has been calling plays for the Sooners since the 2015 season. Since then, OU is the only program to not lose a game in November.
Oklahoma also has won 19 consecutive true road games. One more victory would equal the longest streak since Miami (1984-88) and Ohio State (2012-16).
Quarterback Kyler Murray was asked how the team has been effective on the road.
“I think everybody here knows you can’t get down on each other. If anything, you try to pick each other up and you keep going,” Murray said. “Nobody really got on me when I threw two interceptions (at Texas Tech). I haven’t said anything to the defense if they’re having a bad game or nothing like that. It’s one team, and the ultimate goal is to win games.”
Oklahoma likely won’t be 100 percent in Saturday’s game.
Running back Trey Sermon and defensive lineman Neville Gallimore didn’t play in Saturday’s 55-40 win over Kansas. While Riley says there’s a chance that the pair could play, the short week could hurt.
“We certainly weren’t going to hold anybody last week. That’s just never been our mentality around here regardless of the situation or who you’re playing,” Riley said. “We’re gonna try to be at our very best each week. And so I think there’s a chance, but they also, neither one of them were really very close to being able to help us last week either. So there’s, a short week is probably working against us a little bit there.”
“You’d love to have that extra 24 hours right now for those guys, but they’re battling to try to get back. But it’s also gotta be at a point where they can be effective too.”
Riley said Sermon tried to play against the Jayhawks but only lasted two plays and wasn’t close to where he needed to be.
“Our injury report right now has a lot of questionables and doubtfuls off to the side of it right now,” Riley said. “Hopefully those guys can progress. There’s certainly no doubt they want to be out there, but we’ve gotta make sure they’re ready to play too.”
Riley was also asked about defensive back Justin Broiles and running back T.J. Pledger.
Broiles, who was injured late in Saturday’s game, “is doing well,” the coach said. The defensive back was observed overnight and Riley said his progress is ahead of schedule.
“T.J.’s kind of in the same category as Trey and Neville. He’s been a little nicked up. He’s been close,” Riley said. “We thought middle of last week, there was a chance. By the end, there wasn’t even a chance. He just wasn’t quite ready. I think there’s a chance we have him this week, but he hasn’t practiced with us yet.”
Pledger and Sermon’s absence would leave the Sooners with Kennedy Brooks as the team’s only healthy running back.
With two of the nation’s top offenses and two defenses that have given up points in November, the possibility of a high-scoring, competitive game is there.
“I’d rather blow a team out, but if that’s what it is, that’s what it is,” Murray said. “We’ve been in many of them since I’ve been here, and I think we know the formula for that. If it is a showdown, you’ve just got to keep swinging. That’s really all it comes down to.”