Doege, Brown Have Much to Prove in Bout Between West Virginia and Oklahoma State
Nearly a week ago, in front of a rowdy, Bill Snyder Family Stadium crowd, West Virginia watched their season's trajectory change, potentially drastically.
Most people would credit the changing of the guard at QB and the ascendant play of Jarret Doege as the catalyst for the Mountaineers pulling off a dramatic victory over the ranked Wildcats. On the same day, just due south across the plains in Stillwater, redshirt freshman QB Spencer Sanders looked on from the sidelines as senior transfer Dru Brown entered the game to put the finishing touches on Oklahoma State's 31-13 rout of Kansas.
In the six days that have followed, both teams now find themselves in vastly different positions. West Virginia, once dead in the water, now has found a second wind and a real shot at bowl eligibility. The Cowboys, meanwhile, will have to clear the rest of its schedule without starting QB Spencer Sanders, who was just announced as a scratch for the rest of the season due to a hand injury.
In his stead, it's all but certain that Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy will go with Hawai'i transfer Dru Brown. Brown, a senior, amassed 5,273 passing yards as a starter for the Rainbow Warriors. Now, like Doege a week ago, he finds himself taking the reins in hostile territory, hoping to best a team that smells blood in the water.
To be clear, both teams still have chips on the table. West Virginia's final two games are absolute must-haves for the purposes of becoming bowl eligible - a fact that would have been deemed outlandish even two weeks ago. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, has already cleared the bar for postseason fun.
What is likely of greater consequence to Cowboy nation is what a loss Saturday could do to the Heisman odds of all-world running back Chuba Hubbard, who is currently leading the nation in rush yards and sits second in rushing TD's. Lose Saturday and a trip to New York is a lost cause. Those are the stakes. This is what Doege and Brown are squaring off over.
The parallels between the two are interesting. Both have played at mid-major programs and done so with varying levels of success. Additionally, both play similar styles of football in the mold of the fast & loose, gunslinger way that the likes of Kyler Murray, Will Grier, and Baker Mayfield patented for the Big 12 in recent years. Moreover, both are now at the forefront of programs trying to outpace the injury bug, which has claimed multiple starters from both rosters over the course of the season.
Beyond what either team might be playing for tomorrow, the fact that there are two, largely unknown quarterbacks leading the charge ups the unknown/potential for surprise quotient considerably. Given the history between these two programs (which you can read more about here), this could be another offense-heavy thriller.
Since joining the Big 12 almost a decade ago, West Virginia has only won two of its matchups against Oklahoma State. Last year's second-half collapse in Stillwater remains an absolute dagger in Mountaineer nation's collective memory and was likely the critical blow that killed West Virginia's Big 12 title hopes. So, yes, payback is absolutely on the minds of the upperclassmen who were there to experience that last November. Oklahoma State's odds of competing for a Big 12 title are virtually zero but, as mentioned before, they can ill-afford a loss to a rebuilding West Virginia team, especially when Bedlam, their annual romp with Oklahoma, looms next weekend.
Adapt, improvise, overcome- that might be the byline for tomorrow's game and the mantra for both Jarret Doege and Dru Brown. This might not be the storyline that dominates the national airwaves but for anyone in orange and black and gold and blue, it's the only one that matters. With how competitive the Big 12 has been this season, nothing and no one is safe. Whatever larger implications this game might have in the conference rankings, it's a safe bet that tomorrow will be appropriately eventful in the spirit of late-season Big 12 football.
Jarret Doege, Dru Brown: the floor is yours.