STILLWATER – Oklahoma State was able to overcome its season-opener jitters as it beat West Virginia 27-13 in the Big 12 opener in Stillwater. With the win, the Cowboys move to 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in Big 12 play.
“Our defense was really good again,” said head coach Mike Gundy. “They continued to go out there and, as we struggled offensively, they kept their head up and made plays. We’re obviously putting the ball on the ground too much offensively, and we’re going to have to clean that up. We were able to put a drive together to end the game, but we’re going long periods of time not being in sync offensively so we’ve got a lot of work in that area. I thought our special teams was excellent again. I feel at a certain time we were a little bit undisciplined with penalties even though some of them like Harvell-Peel’s were a little unusual, but we have to back off a little bit with the offsides and being undisciplined. We found a way to win again. The defense continued to get stops and gave us an opportunity to win the football game.”
Things got a little hairy in the fourth quarter as West Virginia was able to march down the field and get within seven points, 20-13, following a field goal with nine minutes remaining in the game. The Oklahoma State offense had sputtered, as the first four drives of the second half resulted in three punts and an interception.
The Cowboys took over with 8:56 left in the game and on their own 20-yard line. Shane Illingworth would then march the Cowboys down the field on a 7:39 drive that ended with a 23-yard touchdown from Chuba Hubbard. That gave the home team a 27-13 lead with 1:17 left in the game.
The story of the day for Oklahoma State was the defense, which continued its dominance from the first week and even had a defensive touchdown. With just over 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter, sophomore Trace Ford stripped the ball away from West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege and Tyren Irby scooped it up and took it back to the house for the score. The Cowboys would also finish the game with two sacks, one by Cameron Murray and one by Calvin Bundage.
The Pokes allowed 272 yards in the first half, but most of those yards came on big plays and the Mountaineers scored only seven points in the first two quarters. WVU totaled just 81 yards in the second half, and Oklahoma State held the Mountaineers to 6-of-17 on third down plays and 0-for-1 on fourth down plays on the day. It was linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga who led the way for the Cowboys with 13 total tackles, eight of which were solo stops, including one sack and one quarterback hurry.
As a whole, the defense finished with 11 tackles for loss, nine quarterback hurries, six pass break ups, four of which came from Rodarius Williams, and five sacks.
“It looks like they played well,” said coach Gundy. “There were a number of times we influenced the quarterback though I don’t know if it will show up statistically because he got rid of the ball right before we hit him. You guys might know better than me, but I bet we got 10 hits on him today. Sometimes those count, but he sat in the pocket and took a lot of hits today. Our pressure was really good.”
Jim Knowles’ defense spent a lot of time out on the field, but they always seemed to come up with a huge stop when they needed to. There haven’t been too many times over the years where that was expected with the Cowboy defense took the field.
Spencer Sanders left the season opener against Tulsa with a lower leg injury and wasn’t ready to go by kickoff time. So, Illingworth, a freshman, got the nod for the Pokes. He played well as he’s still learning the ropes in his first career start. The first interception of his career came with just under three minutes left in the third quarter. He avoided a sack and tried to fire a pass across the middle that was intercepted by linebacker Tony Fields. Illingworth finished the day going 15-of-21 for 139 yards and one interception.
Senior running back LD Brown had another great game for the second week in a row as he broke off a 66-yard touchdown run on his first touch of the day with just under 14 minutes remaining in the first half. He’d finish the game with 11 carries for 103 yards and one touchdown.
As for Hubbard, he’d finish with 22 carries for 101 yards and one touchdown. He also lost the ball twice, but Oklahoma State was able to recover the ball each time.
Overall, the Cowboy offense would finish the day with 342 yards of total offense, 203 yards on the ground. It combined for 20 first downs on the day and averaged 5.4 yards per play.
There was a scary moment for the Cowboys after a 70-yard touchdown strike from WVU's Jarret Doege. On the ensuing kickoff, Braydon Johnson dropped the kick and it was nearly recovered by the Mountaineers on the OSU 17-yard line. However, Jason Taylor II was able to get back on the ball to avoid the turnover.
Even though they recovered the ball, the special teams made up for the near-disaster with just over seven minutes left in the first half. The defense forced another Mountaineer fourth down and forced a field goal attempt. On the snap, the holder bobbled the snap and the Cowboys took over on the 30-yard line.
Special teams was solid for the Pokes as Alex Hale went 2-for-2 on field goals and punter Tom Hutton had six punts for an average of 44.8 yards.
Oklahoma State travels to Lawrence, KS next week for a showdown with the Jayhawks on Oct. 3. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on either ABC or ESPN.