Unbeaten No. 10 West Virginia faces explosive Oklahoma St.
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) West Virginia has been praised for its solid defense in a league that doesn't offer much of it.
The 10th-ranked Mountaineers (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) will be tested again Saturday. Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1), led by strong-armed junior quarterback Mason Rudolph, ranks 11th nationally in passing offense and 14th in scoring with 41.1 points per game. The Mountaineers, who allowed just 17 points to Texas Tech and 10 to TCU, will need to be at their best to remain undefeated and in position for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
''The thing that scares you more than anything is just their drop back passing game, getting the ball down the field and scoring it in a hurry,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. ''They're averaging 40-some points a game. They're capable of scoring more than that, so we have to be on guard with what they're doing.''
West Virginia ranks 12th nationally in pass efficiency defense. The Mountaineers have seven interceptions, led by Rasul Douglas' three picks. And the Mountaineers rank 15th nationally in scoring defense, despite ranking just 57th in total defense.
''They keep you out of the end zone and they've got a good score-zone defense,'' Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. ''They do a nice job defending both the run and the pass, especially the pass. They're a unique defense in which they can drop eight defenders and then also play eight-man front football. So, they're very unique in their style, they create some challenges for you offensively.''
Oklahoma State's offense has become more dangerous in recent weeks since freshman running back Justice Hill emerged as a threat. The 170-pound speedster ranks third in conference play with 119 yards rushing per game.
Here are some things of interest heading into Saturday's game:
West Virginia's offensive coordinator has quite a history with Oklahoma State. The former Cowboys offensive line coach took a job at Texas in 2014, and headaches followed. Oklahoma State sued him for breach of contract, arguing he made a lateral move to Texas and didn't take a promotion with ''play-calling duties'' as stated was needed for such a move in his contract. The sides settled, and Wickline says there are no hard feelings.
''It's another game, we're all professionals, it's business, and we take care of the student-athletes,'' he said. ''We take care of what's at hand, where we're at, and we kind of dismiss that and move on to the next thing.''
THE OTHER GUY
James Washington is Oklahoma State's most accomplished receiver, but Jalen McCleskey is its most consistent. He leads the team with 38 catches, and he has four touchdowns this season. Washington was limited to one catch for nine yards last week against Kansas, but McCleskey stepped up with six catches for 129 yards.
Ben Grogan became Oklahoma State's all-time leading scorer last week against Kansas. He passed Dan Bailey, who now kicks for the Dallas Cowboys. Grogan, the leading active scorer in the Big 12, has made his past seven field-goal attempts.
West Virginia's Skyler Howard's passer rating (157.4) is 23 points higher than last season. He ranks 15th nationally in yards passing per game and 14th in passer efficiency rating. He has improved most in taking care of the ball - he has gone the past two games without throwing an interception and has thrown just four interceptions this season after throwing 14 in 13 games last year.
Oklahoma State doesn't always stop its opponents, but when it does, it's usually with a turnover. The Cowboys lead the Big 12 with 16 turnovers forced - eight fumbles and eight interceptions. Devante Averette already has recovered three fumbles this season and forced two, and Jordan Sterns and Ramon Richards both have intercepted two passes.
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