For coach Dana Holgorsen, one of the most encouraging aspects about the defense was not just getting turnovers, but when the Mountaineers got them, often times late in drives when perhaps last year's defense might have just given up.
"They wore us down some, but we kept fighting at the end of drives,'' Holgorsen said. "How many turnovers did we get at the end of [long] drives? They didn't quit playing.''
All four turnovers the Mountaineers caused came after Oklahoma had driven into WVU territory, twice inside the 20. An interception by safety Darwin Cook (who also had a fumble recovery) came in the end zone early in the third quarter just when it looked like things were about to fall apart. Oklahoma had gained a combined 60 yards on back-to-back runs by Brennan Clay and a personal foul penalty for an out-of-bounds tackle by Ishmael Banks put the Sooners at the 5-yard line. Cook intercepted Knight on the next play for a shocking swing of momentum.
But it was neither the interception nor the fumble recovery that was on Cook's mind after the game. He also dropped a potential interception with a lot of open field in front of him.
"We could have had five turnovers and a touchdown,'' Cook said. "I don't even think about the interception I caught. I should have caught the first one and scored and it would have been a different game.''
By the end of the day, the defense had allowed only one touchdown - on just a 32-yard drive after a muffed punt - and field goals on the three longest OU possessions of the game.
Still, the game took its toll on that defense, although how badly has yet to be determined. Linebacker Doug Rigg was taken off on a stretcher late in the game after colliding with a teammate. He returned home with the team late Saturday night, but was knocked unconscious and may have a concussion.
Linebacker Isaiah Bruce spent the second half on the sidelines with crutches and nickel back safety K.J. Dillon left the game and did not return. Rowell also left for a time, as did fellow defensive lineman Eric Kinsey, although they both returned.
The bottom line, Holgorsen said, was that while his team didn't win, there were some positives.
"I'm excited about this football team. We're going to keep getting better,'' he said. "It's not a positive that we didn't win the game. There's nothing positive about it. But I feel good about the guys and I feel good about continuing to get better and better each week."
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.