West Virginia is on the road this weekend as it opens its Big 12 schedule up against No. 15 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The action kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ABC.
The Mountaineers and Cowboys have met a total of 11 times in a series that dates back to 1928, with West Virginia coasting to a 32-6 win in the inaugural matchup. Unfortunately for WVU, recent history hasn’t been quite as nice to it, as it’s dropped its last five meetings to OSU. That streak has the all-time series at 7-4 in favor of Oklahoma State.
Those wins haven’t come easily to the Cowboys, however, especially in the last two seasons — each of those contests have been decided by just a single score with West Virginia squandering late-game offensive opportunities.
There were a couple of bright spots for West Virginia in last year’s meeting, however. First was the play of quarterback Jarret Doege, who threw for 307 yards and a touchdown in his first start at home as a Mountaineer.
Looking back on that game, though, Doege has some different memories.
“They went cover zero on us and we just didn’t execute that well in the red zone,” Doege said. “I remember us getting tackled at the one and we just didn’t get in, so we’ve just got to be a lot better this year in the red zone.”
He’s right — West Virginia made three trips to the red zone last season against Oklahoma State, and mustered just six points — all from field goals.
The other bright spot for WVU was its defense, which kept OSU’s Heisman candidate running back Chuba Hubbard out of the end zone for the first time in a full calendar year, while also holding him to his lowest rushing total all season for games in which he had at least ten carries.
With both teams largely intact for this year’s matchup, there are several different matchups to keep an eye on:
Questions continue to swirl around the Oklahoma State offense as Coach Mike Gundy has yet to name a starting quarterback for game two.
Their typical starter, redshirt sophomore Spencer Sanders, left the Cowboys’ first game of the season in the opening drive with an ankle injury. Gundy said on Monday that Sanders would be in a boot until Tuesday, after which point they’d put him on the practice field to test his status.
Unfortunately for West Virginia, that was the last update that Gundy gave the public — so they’ve been left to prepare for multiple offenses depending on the scenario.
If Sanders is out, the most likely starter is true freshman Shane Illingworth, who finished the 16-7 OSU victory under center and impressed his coaches. He threw five passes and completed four for a total of 74 yards after replacing Ethan Bullock, who stepped in after Sanders’s injury and struggled.
“You have to try to prepare for all three,” said Jordan Lesley, WVU’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. “You have to prepare for the run-pass first because that’s the hardest, so that’s probably where you’ve gotta spend the most energy — but yeah, we’ll prepare…for all three guys that they have.”
West Virginia had a tough time getting its ground game moving in last season’s matchup — much like the rest of the season — gaining just 26 yards on the ground on 22 carries. This year’s rushing attack looks to be different, as WVU gained 329 yards on the ground in its season opener (over 37 percent of their entire 2019 season total).
This week, it’ll be up against one of the most stout Cowboy defenses in years. In the words of its head coach, Oklahoma State’s defense “stoned” Tulsa in their season opener, holding them to 278 total yards and without moving the chains on third down — at all.
“Everybody has held their breath to see who gets the ball last, whoever gets the ball last scores and the game’s over,” said Gundy of Big 12 play in recent years on Monday. “I felt more comfortable in this game than I have in a number of years because I felt we were stoning them on defense.”
On the flip side, Gundy wasn’t particularly ecstatic about his team’s play on the offensive line. Across his offense, Gundy was forced to move players around for different reasons, including simple trial and error (one of those players is offensive lineman Josh Sills, who transferred from West Virginia after last season and started OSU’s season opener last week).
Whether or not Gundy’s confidence level rises before Saturday, the Cowboys have the task of stopping one of the more highly-anticipated defensive lines at West Virginia in several years. All three of this year’s starters on the D-line — Darius and Dante Stills and Jeffery Pooler — earned a tackle for loss last year against Oklahoma State, while the younger Stills and Pooler each added a sack.
The contest kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC. We will have live coverage on GoldAndBlueNation.com as well as our social media pages so you won’t miss a moment.
Start your Saturday off with the newest episode of The Neal Brown Show, which airs at 9 a.m. on your local Nexstar station. That leads right in to Mountaineer GameDay, which features Anjelica Trinone live from Stillwater with Nick Farrell and Amanda Mazey back in Morgantown.