On Nov. 23, 2019, Oklahoma State’s football team defeated West Virginia 20-13 in Morgantown with its backup quarterback. Less than one year later later on Sept. 26, 2020 the Cowboys defeated the Mountaineers 27-13 in Stillwater, again with their backup quarterback.
Despite the obvious similarities regarding the score and the Cowboys’ quarterback situation, WVU head coach Neal Brown the two games were quite different.
“It really was a different game just because last year we limited their run game a lot,” Brown said on Monday morning’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “[OSU running back] Chuba [Hubbard] had less than 100 [yards]. This year they really ran the ball on us and did a nice job rushing for over 200 yards.”
Brown also pointed to the Mountaineers’ own running game as a big difference.
“The same can be said for us, even though our total rushing doesn’t look very long,” Brown said. “We ran the ball for 100-plus yards and that was a big-time improvement from what we did a year ago.”
Running the ball is a point of emphasis for both programs this season, albeit for different reasons. For Oklahoma State, the Cowboys want to be able to replicate the success that Hubbard, who led the nation with 2,094 rushing yards, had last season. The importance of the running game for the OSU is also heightened as long as starting quarterback Spencer Sanders is out.
WVU, on the other hand, is focusing on its running game in hopes of improving on the 879 total rushing yards the team had last season, one of the lowest marks in the country.
To Brown’s point, the Mountaineers held Hubbard to 106 rushing yards in 2019, low by Hubbard’s standards, but this season, Hubbard and fellow running back LD Brown combined for 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
On the Mountaineers’ side, Leddie Brown and Kennedy McKoy combined for 42 rushing yards in 2019. Leddie Brown ran for 104 yards himself on Saturday in Stillwater.
While running the ball better was certainly a positive change for the Mountaineers, Neal Brown said another difference and one similarity held the team back.
“The commonalities were that we didn’t finish in the red zone,” Neal Brown said. “The other difference is, in this game, we hurt ourselves a bunch. Penalties, missed assignments, misfits in the running game.”
In the red zone, WVU’s results were nearly identical to a season ago. In 2019 WVU had three red zone trips against the Cowboys. In those three trips, they kicked two field goals and turned it over once on downs. This season, WVU only had two red zone trips, kicking field goals on both.
As for penalties, WVU went from five for 40 yards in 2019 to 12 for 106 yards in 2020.
“Oklahoma State won the game, I don’t mean to take anything away from them,” Neal Brown said. “But we just did not play very well.”