By Carey Phillips
After going down to the wire in a 31-28 season-opening loss to Eastern Kentucky, the task will get much more difficult Saturday when the Catamounts travel to Oklahoma to take on the third-ranked Sooners.
Kickoff is at 7 pm. Eastern Time (6 p.m. Central Time).
OU avoided an upset Saturday and held on for a 40-35 victory over Tulane. The Green Wave was to have played at home, but the game was moved to Oklahoma due to damage in New Orleans from Hurricane Ida.
Heisman Trophy candidate Spencer Rattler completed 30 of 39 passes for 304 yards. His favorite target was Marvin Mims, who caught 14 passes for 87 yards.
Kennedy Brooks led the Sooner ground game with 87 yards in 14 carries.
Gabe Brkic was named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week after tying a Football Bowl Subdivision record by kicking three field goals of at least 50 yards. He connected on kicks of 51, 55 and 56 yards.
The Sooners are coached by Lincoln Riley, former offensive coordinator at East Carolina.
OU went 9-2 last year and finished strong with wins over Iowa State (27-21) in the Big 12 championship game and Florida (55-20) in the Cotton Bowl.
The Catamounts had a chance to force overtime against EKU but a 56-yard field goal came up short on the final play.
“I thought that we played a decent game, but we just made too many mistakes to win a close game like that,” said Kerwin Bell, who was making his WCU coaching debut. “Those are the kind of games that you wish that you could have back. EKU just took advantage of the opportunities.”
WCU’s T.J. Jones carried 17 times for 115 yards.
Rogan Wells completed 24 of 44 passes for 275 yards. Raphael Williams had eight receptions for 122 yards.
Wells was intercepted twice. One of the picks was returned 78 yards setting up the touchdown that put the Colonels ahead to stay. Bell said the interception was not Wells’ fault.
“Our receiver just ran the wrong route,” he said. “We’ve only been in (practice) for just over 20 days. We just didn’t get the signal right, ran the wrong route and we throw a pick, and then they go down and score and its 14-13 at halftime. That was a crucial mistake for us.
“But, like I told the team, I was so proud of the way they showed grit and grind through that third and fourth quarter,” Bell said. “They refused to lose. Down by 11, they just got us back in it and gave ourselves a chance to tie it there at the end.”