Backup QBs in spotlight as West Virginia visits No. 3 Oklahoma
NORMAN, Okla. — Two situations changed the quarterback matchup between Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and West Virginia's Will Grier.
Mayfield, the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, was caught on camera making a lewd gesture toward the Kansas sideline during Saturday's win. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley announced Monday that Mayfield wouldn't start or be a captain Saturday in his final home game.
Grier, a Davey O'Brien Award semifinalist who ranks second nationally with 34 touchdown passes, injured a finger on his throwing hand while trying to stretch the ball for a touchdown last Saturday against Texas. He had surgery and is expected to miss at least four weeks.
Kyler Murray will start for No. 3 Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, No. 4 CFP), and Chris Chugunov will get his first career start for West Virginia (7-4, 5-3).
In a tearful news conference Monday, Mayfield said he understood why the punishment was necessary.
“It doesn't matter who you are. You need to handle yourself the right way,” he said. “For this program going forward, it needs to show that Coach Riley is about doing it the right way. He always has and always will be. It doesn't matter if you are the starting quarterback. If you don't act the right way, Coach Riley is going to discipline you. That's how it needs to be.”
Murray, a transfer from Texas A&M, has completed 16 of 19 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 62 yards this season. It's unclear how much he will play, but he'll be expected to help Oklahoma remain on track for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“He's absolutely ready,” Mayfield said. “He could have started any of the other games this year. He's more than capable of leading this team and being a great quarterback here. He will be. He'll be ready. There's zero questions and zero doubt about that.”
Chugunov completed 14 of 26 passes for 189 yards and a score in relief of Grier.
“I was happy with the way he competed last week,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He went in there and competed his tail off. He got knocked around a little bit and kept getting up and knew where to go with the ball.”
West Virginia already is bowl eligible, so a loss wouldn't be costly. A road win against the nation's No. 3 team would provide a boost to the program, though.
“Let's go play ball. Let's have fun. Let's rally around (Chugunov). Let's play our tail off,” Holgorsen said. “This season changes drastically if we can go win this one.”
Mayfield acknowledged Oklahoma and West Virginia are known for having especially intense games. He also understands that because Kansas successfully baited him by not shaking hands before last week's game, the Mountaineers might test him more than usual.
“You can say what you want about the chippy games we've had with them. That's just because they're a good program and we play competitively with each other. But that's football.”