Game Preview: WVU vs. OSU
Series: WVU 2-1
Last meeting: 1987: WVU 33, OSU 35 F
Television: 3:30 p.m., ABC (Dave LaMont - play-by-play, Kelly Stouffer - analyst)
Line: +8 West Virginia
West Virginia (5-3, 2-3) will hit the road for the first time since Oct. 13, looking to snap a three-game losing skid against an Oklahoma State team (5-3, 3-2) that mirror the Mountaineers in a lot of different ways.
Familiar is the word being thrown around to describe the two coaching staffs and for good reason.
The Mountaineers feature a number of coaches who served on Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy's staff including head coach Dana Holgorsen that came over after a season as the offensive coordinator in 2010.
But Holgorsen isn't the only coach with ties to the program on the West Virginia staff as co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest and running backs coach Robert Gillespie also spent time in Stillwater. Along with quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital, who served as a graduate assistant for the Cowboys and current graduate assistant Andrew McGee, who was an All-Big 12 selection at cornerback for Oklahoma State.
"Once you get into a game, it's not much different than any other game. They are much more familiar with us than we are with them. They've been here. We only know them, we don't know their players. Once the game gets going, in most cases you actually forget who's on the other side," Gundy said.
Gundy has been atop the Oklahoma State program for eight seasons leading his alma mater to a 64-33 mark, including last season's Big 12 Championship, the first in program history.
The Cowboys have kept Holgorsen's offensive system in place under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and currently rank second in the country in total offense with 575-yards per game.
"Dana was good for us. When we made the transition three years ago, it was good that we were able to make a smooth transition and be able to put up some good offensive numbers and score some points. It was good that he was able to come in here. We learned a lot from his system," Gundy said.
The success on offense is in spite of the Cowboys having to use three different quarterbacks this year due to injuries at the position, and for Saturday's matchup the Mountaineers could see Clint Chelf, who entered the last week's game against Kansas State in the third quarter.
Chelf finished the game 16-27 passing for 233 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception.
The Cowboys feature the best statistical running back in the Big 12 Conference in Joseph Randle, who's a Doak Walker Award Candidate. Randle currently is the leading rusher in the Big 12 and ranks 14th nationally with 116.8 yards per game, and has averaged 5.34 yards per carry on the season.
The OSU defense also is much improved ranking 47th in the country this season.
Like West Virginia, Oklahoma State is coming off a loss on the road to Kansas State where the Cowboys fell 44-30 on the road.
The game is set for 3:30 p.m. ET inside Boone Pickens Stadium.
West Virginia Depth Chart:
QB - 12 Geno Smith, 14 Paul Millard, 7 Ford Childress
RB (A) - 13 Andrew Buie, 29 Dustin Garrison
FB (B) - 32 Ryan Clarke, 88 Cody Clay, 30 Donovan Miles
WR (X) - 5 Ivan McCartney, 3 Stedman Bailey
WR (Z) - 81 J.D. Woods, 85 Devonte Robinson
IR (H) -10 Jordan Thompson, 2 Travares Copeland
IR (Y) - 1 Tavon Austin, 10 Jordan Thompson
LT - 67 Quinton Spain, 62 Curtis Feigt
LG - 77 Josh Jenkins, 67 Quinton Spain
C - 74 Joe Madsen, 60 John Bassler
RG - 57 Jeff Braun, 76 Pat Eger
RT - 62 Curtis Feigt, 79 Nick Kindler
DT - 99 Jorge Wright, 96 Korey Harris
NT - 90 Shaq Rowell, 95 Christian Brown
DE - 98 Will Clarke, 93 Kyle Rose
BUCK - 4 Josh Francis, 36 Shaq Petteway
STAR - 28 Terence Garvin, 37 Wes Tonkery
WILL - 33 Jared Barber, 47 Doug Rigg
SAM - 31 Isaiah Bruce, 35 Nick Kwiatkoski
FCB - 34 Ishmael Banks, 23 Brodrick Jenkins
FS - 8 Karl Joseph, 34 Ishmael Banks
BS - 24 Cecil Level, 25 Darwin Cook
BCB - 6 Pat Miller, 7 Nana Kyeremeh
PK - 40 Tyler Bitancurt
P - 44 Corey Smith
KO - 44 Corey Smith
LS -87 John DePalma, 86 Jerry Cooper
H - 48 Michael Molinari
PR - 1 Tavon Austin, 10 Jordan Thompson
KR - 1 Tavon Austin, 10 Jordan Thompson
Twelve true freshmen saw action in games this season: DL Christian Brown, WR Travares Copeland, LS John DePalma, S K.J. Dillon, DL Korey Harris, LB Garrett Hope, S Karl Joseph, DL Eric Kinsey, CB Nana Kyeremeh, WR Devonte Robinson, CB Ricky Rumph and WR Jordan Thompson. In all 21 first-time players saw action with LB Isaiah Bruce, WR Dante Campbell, FB Cody Clay, LS Jerry Cooper, LB Dozie Ezemma, OL Russell Haughton-James, OL Brandon Jackson, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, WR K.J. Myers, DL Kyle Rose and CB Ishmail Showell.
Ten Mountaineers have earned their first career start this season: Tyler Anderson (BUCK), Ishmael Banks (CB), Isaiah Bruce (LB), Cody Clay (FB), Travares Copeland (WR), Karl Joseph (FS), Nana Kyeremeh (CB), Cecil Level (S), Shaq Rowell (DL) and Jordan Thompson (WR).
Ivan McCartney is now listed as the starter over Stedman Bailey at the (X) outside wide receiver position.
Curtis Feigt takes over the top spot at the right tackle position from Nick Kindler, who was filling in for Pat Eger.
Jordan Thompson takes back his spot atop the (H) inside receiver position from fellow true freshman Travares Copeland who is now listed as the backup.
At the backup DT spot, true freshman Korey Harris is now listed behind Jorge Wright, while Jared Barber supplants Doug Rigg as the listed starter at WILL linebacker.
Sophomore Ishmael Banks started last week at cornerback and is listed as the starter entering this week, along with senior Cecil Level who once again is in line to start at boundary safety.
Injuries: Travis Bell, Avery Williams and Jewone Snow are out for the season.
Points to click:
Effort. In a game with two coaching staffs that will be as familiar as these two are, this game won't be won by out scheming one another. This is a game where effort and energy by the players on the field will determine the outcome and West Virginia must put the past three games behind them and come out ready to play.
Turnovers. Often a determining factor in football games, this one will be no different. On defense West Virginia needs to continue to swarm to the football and force turnovers, while offensively the Mountaineers need to protect the ball and avoid giving an explosive Oklahoma State offense any short fields.
Which offense show's up? It seems like a lifetime ago when a top 10 Mountaineer squad celebrated one of its biggest road victories to date with a 48-45 Victory over then ranked Texas Longhorns. That same offense was averaging 52 points per game and well over 550 yards per game. The Mountaineer offense Geno Smith was near brilliant as he led WVU to 460 yards of offense and 4 passing touchdowns. Sophomore running back Andrew Buie had a career day rushing for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns. Many Mountaineer fans will tell you that it may have been the best offensively called game in Mountaineer history. Just a week later that same high powered offense crumbled against Texas Tech. The following week the Mountaineers once again struggles to put points up against Kansas State.
To add insult to injury, after the bye week the Mountaineers lost their third straight game. Since WVU's early 5-0 start the offense has dropped its 52 points per game average down to 15 during the 3 game skid. The Mountaineers also are averaging almost 250 less yards per game. While no one can put a finger on what the problem is, West Virginia can not expect to leave Stillwater with a checkmark in the win column if these issues with the offense are not rectified. It may seem simple but the Mountaineers are going to have to execute the offense at the same level they did they started out 5-0. A continuation of the effort put forward the past three weeks will lead to a fourth straight loss for the Mountaineers.
Continuing to build on defensive success. You can ask 10 different people if they thought WVU's defense improved at all after the 39-38 loss to TCU last weekend and you'd get 10 different answers. While TCU is not the offensive juggernaut that other Big 12 teams are, WVU's defense was able to keep TCU in check most of the evening. You could tell with each 3 and out the defense built long needed confidence. Will the Mountaineer defense be able to build off the success of last week's effort or will they slide back into the same routine that has the Mountaineers defensive unit ranked nearly last in most pass defense NCAA statistics?
Leadership. Oklahoma State is not an offense that WVU Is going to be able to play around with. Can this Mountaineer team show enough leadership and character to not roll over and let Oklahoma State walk all over them? This Mountaineer team is too good to be sitting in the situation they are in but there are hundreds of examples of college football teams (heck any sports teams) in this situation that just gave up. Does this team have the intestinal fortitude to overcome any early game errors or breaks for OSU? Someone is going to have to step up and lead the Mountaineers to a victory.
We all know what WVU is capable of, but in this game they've got to prove it themselves and the fans that they have what it takes to guy out a difficult road conference victory against a team that strengths match-up against WVU's weaknesses.