Connect with us

WVU Football

What to Look Forward to: An Oklahoma State Game Week Guide

Published

on

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When WVU Football head coach Neal Brown entered the media room on Tuesday, the first thing he said when he sat down was a thank you to the fans who braved the drizzle and cold of the Oct. 30 afternoon to come watch his team perform.

“We had 45,000 [fans] that showed up, and what a tremendous atmosphere at the end of that game,” Brown said. “It was extremely loud. Going back and watching some of the tv copy, you can hear, I don’t know how long that ‘Let’s Go Mountaineers’ cheer went, but it went for a really long time. It was really difficult to even hear when we were on the headsets during that last sequence of plays while we were on defense.

“Credit to the people that came. I appreciate everyone who showed up. If you didn’t, you missed out on what I thought was a great college football game. We were fortunate to come out ahead, but it was a physical game by two teams that competed really, really hard, and we were fortunate enough to win.”

The 38-31 victory at home over a 5-2 No. 22 Iowa State team was a continuation of the stellar play that the Mountaineers had exhibited against the TCU Horned Frogs the previous week. Brown broke his road losing streak with the 29-17 victory at Amon G. Carter Stadium, and it was the perfect “Return from BYE week” momentum.

Next on the docket: Oklahoma State.

It won’t be easy.

Cowboy punter, Aussie Tom Hutton ranks No. 67 in the country for punts, nailing 44 punts a combined 1,829 yards. Brown gave him a nod as a field position threat. For some perspective, WVU punter Tyler Sumpter is No. 26 in the nation after booting 29 punts for 1,298 yards. Brown also acknowledged that the rest of the Cowboys’ special teams unit is strong.

In punt return defense, the Cowboys rank No. 4 nationally, only letting 10 return yards through the cracks on nine returns.

Kicker Tanner Brown was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week on Nov. 1. He’s only been in the starting position since the beginning of October, but has already amassed a 6-for-8 record on field goals and is perfect through 15 extra points. He has also kicked off 41 times, including 19 touchbacks.

“Kickoff return, they’ve already returned one for a touchdown this year,” Brown said. “Obviously we’ve had some issues in that area as well. Outside of one game, they’ve been consistent on making their field goals.”

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has spent half of his life either quarterbacking or coaching the Cowboys football team, and what a tenure he’s had. Since he was hired for the 2005 season, he’s gone 144-68. In his 13th season, the 2021 team ranks No. 11 in the AP Poll, up from No. 15 last week. They’re coming off a stellar 55-3 blowout of the Kansas Jayhawks on Oct. 30.

The combination of Gundy and his QB1, redshirt junior Spencer Sanders, has never played West Virginia during Brown’s time at the program’s helm. Sanders was injured in 2020, and Gundy sent true freshman Shane Illingworth out to lead the team to what would eventually become a 27-13 victory. In 2019, Sanders was injured again, and Gundy subbed in redshirt senior Dru Brown to beat the Mountaineers 20-13.

Now, Sanders is back. He’s 102-171-5 for 1,341 yards and 11 touchdowns thus far. That ranks him eighth in the Big 12 in passing efficiency. It’ll be a fun quarterback match-up, as WVU’s Jarret Doege is in sole possession of the conference lead in that category; he’s 169-255-7 for 2,071 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“Spencer Sanders, who’s been the starting quarterback there for three years, this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to go against him because he’s been injured, He’s a dual-threat guy. He’s strong. He can run. He’s got a really strong arm. He can make all the throws. They utilize him a lot in the red zone.”

Armed with Sanders, Gundy’s team is a quintessential run offense. The team’s go-to running back, redshirt senior Jaylen Warren, has been on a superb jaunt through the record books.

“Offensively, they want to run the football,” Brown said. “It starts with Warren. The offensive line is really improved from a year ago, and Jaylen Warren runs as well as anybody in our league… The thing I really respect about Jaylen Warren is he runs the ball angry. He is a violent runner. He gets downhill. He breaks tackles. It’s impressive… He’s really tough tackle.”

Warren is fifth in the Big 12 and No. 14 in the country in rushing yards, notching 850 yards on 175 attempts. The top-15 also includes Breece Hall of Iowa State (No. 5), Bijan Robinson of Texas (No. 7), and Abram Smith of Baylor (No. 8). Warren’s per-game rushing yardage (106.2 ypg) places him 16th in the nation as well. Brown said he’s a huge threat to the WVU defensive line.

Moving out toward the hash marks, Brown also emphasized the agility of the Oklahoma State receiving corps.

“Then, they’ve got two receivers in Tay Martin and Brennan Presley that can really run,” Brown said. “They’re extremely fast.”

Martin, who transferred to Stillwater from Washington State in 2020, now ranks No. 3 in the Big 12 receiving yards category. The senior has found 529 yards on 36 receptions, good for four touchdowns. Sophomore Presley ranks No. 22 in the conference, notching 308 yards on 23 receptions for five touchdowns. Martin and Presley are joined by 17 other rostered wide outs, including redshirt freshman Rashod Owens and freshman Blaine Green.

On the opposite side of the ball, WVU offensive coordinator Gerad Parker is in for a difficult day with the Poke’s defensive scheme. This is a defense that ranks No. 8 in first down defense, allowing only 124 first downs through eight games. The Cowboys’ defense only chalks up 200.1 passing yards allowed per game, ranking No. 32 in the nation.

Individually, senior linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez leads the Big 12 in tackles (78 total, 40 solo). To compare, WVU’s Josh Chandler-Semedo is in a close second (72 total, 45 solo).

“Defense, they’ve been lights out,” Brown said. “They’re one of the top teams in the entire country defensively. They’ve got nine seniors. If you go back, that’s nine seniors and two juniors that start, and those guys have played a ton of football over there. The defensive coordinator’s been there four years now. Jim Knowles does a great job. Those guys understand the system. They make it difficult.”

The silver lining for Mountaineer fans is that WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley’s room ranks No. 12 in red zone defense, while Knowles’ team ranks significantly further down the list, at 80th. If the WVU offense can fight to get within close range, that’s going to be the sweet spot that could give West Virginia the edge.

This No. 11 Oklahoma State team is not going down easy on any side of the ball, and Brown is fully prepared to battle on Nov. 6.

“Just a really good football team,” Brown said. “They look like you’d expect one of the top 10 or 12 teams in the country to look like.”

This conference match-up will kick off at 3:30 p.m. at Milan Puskar Stadium and on ESPN.

Welcome to the new home of WVU football and basketball breaking news, analysis and recruiting. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and check us out on YouTube. And don't forget to subscribe for all of our articles delivered directly to your inbox.

Get WVSN in your mailbox!

Enter your email address to subscribe to WVSN and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Sign up for the best in WVU sports!

Subscribe to WVSN today and get all of our posts directly in your inbox the second they're published.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Send this to a friend