Even though Oklahoma State starting quarterback Spencer Sanders’ health is in question for Saturday, West Virginia football coach Neal Brown is not overlooking the Cowboys’ offense for even a second.
“Offensively [Oklahoma State is] extremely explosive, very talented at the skill positions,” Brown said Tuesday. “I think it starts with Chuba Hubbard, a Heisman candidate. Really his ability to break tackles and make explosive plays is what sets him apart in my opinion.”
Hubbard ran roughshod over the Big 12 last season. The Canadian ran for 2,094 total yards in 2019, although he had one of his quieter games on the ground against the Mountaineers. Now a quiet game for Hubbard is still 106 yards on 26 carries, but it was well below his average of 161 yards per game.
It was actually Hubbard’s receiving — seven receptions for 88 yards — that helped the Cowboys defeat WVU 20-13 in Morgantown last season.
“He gets a lot of publicity for his rushing attack, which he should, but he beat us last year with his receiving skills, which says a lot about him,” Brown said.
In that meeting last season, Oklahoma State was without Sanders, which could happen against this season, and also missing was top wide receiver Tylan Wallace, another Cowboy Brown has a high opinion of.
“[Wallace] is a guy that really, I think, is as good as any wideout in the country.”
Wallace had 53 receptions for 903 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019.
On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma State also presents a challenge for the Mountaineers.
“They’ve created a lot of negative plays — tackles for losses, sacks. They’ve created takeaways,” Brown said of the Cowboys’ defense. “[OSU has] 10 of 11 starters back on a group that played really well down the stretch. I think the strength of the defense is their ability to mix and match. They give you a bunch of different looks.”
The Cowboy defense had 77 tackles for loss, 28 sacks, 12 interceptions and eight forced fumbles last season. They held their opponents under 30 points in five of the team’s final six games, winning four.
Now with all that success and after receiving so much praise this offseason, Oklahoma State struggled in its season-opener against Tulsa last week. OSU won 16-7, gaining just 284 yards on offense and turning the ball over twice.
Brown has said several times this season that a team’s biggest in-season improvement comes between game one and game two. With both teams going into their second games, whichever one can improve the most might go a long way to determining the winner.