The West Virginia University Mountaineers have a chance to make a statement and position themselves as a Big 12 Conference championship contender this Saturday as they head on the road to open conference play against the No. 15 Oklahoma State Cowboys with Kickoff set for 3:35 on ABC.
Oklahoma State is day-to-day with starting quarterback Spencer Sanders, who left the game Saturday against Tulsa with a high ankle sprain. However, head coach Mike Gundy said that the injury was milder than expected during his press conference on Monday. Sanders missed the game in Morgantown last season due to an injury as Drew Brown made the start and the Cowboys escaped Mountaineer Field with a 20-13 win.
Junior quarterback Ethan Bullock got his opportunity after the Sanders injury, but after throwing an interception late in the third quarter, Gundy turned to freshman Shane Illingworth.
Illingworth constructed the go-ahead touchdown drive on his first series, followed by the next two drives to gut out a 16-7 win over Tulsa. Illingworth finished the day going 4-5 for 74.
After missing the final five games of the 2019 season due to an injury, including the game against West Virginia, 2018 Biletnikoff Finalist Tylan Wallace got off to a slow start being held without a reception in the first half but found his groove in the second half grabbing all four of his receptions in the third quarter.
West Virginia held one of the nation’s premier backs, Chuba Hubbard, to his second-lowest output on the ground last season at 106 yards. However, he led the Cowboys in receiving with 88 yards.
The Tulsa defense corralled Hubbard to 93 yards and a touchdown, but LD Brown picked up 63 yards on nine carries. As a team, Oklahoma State rushed for 141 yards but fell well short of the 229.6 yards per game last season and gave up six sacks on the day.
The slow start to the rushing attack can be attributed to a revamped offensive line that features 2020 preseason All-Big 12 Conference team member, left tackle Teven Jenkins and former Mountaineer, Josh Sills starting at left guard. However, the Cowboys lost three offensive linemen in the offseason and started two redshirt freshmen on the right side, and both left the first half due to an injury and did not return to action.
The Oklahoma State defense returns 10 of their 11 starters from last season that held Tulsa to 0-12 on third down as linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez came up with 10 total tackles (9 solo tackles) and two tackles for loss while safety Tre Sterling tallied seven solo tackles.
The Cowboys defense has steadily improved since defensive coordinator Jim Knowles came in as defensive coordinator in 2018. The early indication is they are one of the top defenses in the Big 12.
3 KEY MATCHUPS
Trace Ford vs. Junior Uzebu / Brandon Yates
Sophomore defensive end Trace Ford is an up and coming star in the Big 12. As a true freshman, he earned All-Big 12 honorable mention with his continuous harassment in the backfield and will be a big test for redshirt freshman left tackles Junior Uzebu and Brandon Yates. Uzebu won the starting role during fall camp but was suspended for the season opener, and Yates got the nod. Uzebu was back at the top of the depth chart at the beginning of the week but expect both to rotate, and whoever is having the better day will finish the game.
Jarret Doege vs Kolby Harvell-Peel
Free safety Kolby Harvell-Peel is the last line of defense for the Cowboys and one of the key leaders in the Cowboy. The Mountaineers will need some explosive plays if they want to pull off the upset, and Doege hitting his receivers over the top could be the difference-maker.
Chuba Hubbard vs. Tony Fields
West Virginia linebacker Tony Fields showcased his speed in the season opener against Eastern Kentucky and will be tasked with keeping up with Heisman hopeful Chuba Hubbard. It will take a team effort to minimize the damage Hubbard does on the ground, but Fields’ speed should reduce the receiving yards production in the flats.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: 4 ON OFFENSE 4 ON DEFENSE
Tylan Wallace (Sr, Receiver, 6-0, 190-lb)
2018 - Biletnikoff Award Finalist, First-Team All-America (The Sporting News, ESPN), Second-Team All-America (Walter Camp, Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, USA Today), First-Team All-Big 12 (Coaches and AP), Bob Fenimore Award (OSU’s Team MVP), Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Semifinalist, Second-Team Academic All-Big 12
2019 - Second Team All-Big 12 (Coaches, AP), OSU Thurman Thomas Award (outstanding offensive player)
2020 – Preseason All-Big 12 Team
150 receptions / 2,606 yards / 20 TD
2018 - 7 rec / 62 yds / 2 TD
2019 - DNP
Chubba Hubbard (r-Jr, Running Back, 6-0, 208-lb)
2018 - Russell Okung Award (OSU’s outstanding newcomer)
2019 - First-Team All-American (AFCA, Associated Press, FWAA, The Sporting News, Walter Camp, ESPN, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated), Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year (Coaches, AP), Walter Camp Player of the Year Finalist. Doak Walker Award Finalist. First Team All-Big 12 (Coaches, AP), Maxwell Award Semifinalist, OSU Bob Fenimore Award (Team MVP)
2020 – Preseason All-Big 12 Team
CAREER STATS 2018-19
Carries: 479 / Yards: 2,927 / TD: 28
Receptions: 47 / Yards: 420 / TD: 2
2018 - 26 car / 134 yds / 5 rec / 24 yds / 1 TD
2019 - 26 car / 106 yds / 7 rec / 88 yds
Dillon Stoner (r-Sr, Receiver, 6-0, 200-lbs)
2017 - First-Team Academic All-Big 12
2018 - First-Team Academic All-Big 12
2019 - First-Team Academic All-Big 12, Honorable Mention All-Big 12 (Coaches), Team Captain as voted by teammates, OSU Vernon Grant Award for outstanding leadership, spirit, and enthusiasm
147 receptions / 1,792 / 14 TD
2017 - 3 rec / 53 yds
2018 - 9 rec / 127
2019 - 8 rec / 62 yds / 1 TD
LD Brown (r-Sr, Running Back, 5-9, 205-lb)
2018 - Second-Team Academic All-Big 12
101 carries / 607 yards
2017 – 5 car / 6 yds
2018 – 4 car / 26 yds
2019 – 8 car / 62 yds
Kolby Harvell-Peel (Jr, Safety, 6-0, 210-lbs)
2019 - First-Team All-Big 12 (Coaches, AP)
OSU Bob Fenimore Award (Team MVP)
74 tackles (51 solo) / 4 tackles for loss / 5 interceptions / 14 pass deflections
2019 – 4 tackles (2 solo) / 2 pass deflections
Tre Sterling (r-Jr, Safety, 5-11, 200-lbs)
2019 - Honorable Mention All-Big 12 (Coaches)
72 tackles (41 solo) / 8 tackles for loss / 1.5 sacks / 1 interception / 8 pass deflections
2019 – 8 tackles (5 solo) / 1.5 tackles for loss / 1 pass deflection
Malcolm Rodriguez (Sr, Linebacker, 5-11, 220-lbs)
2018 - Honorable Mention All-Big 12 (Coaches)
2019 - Second-Team All-Big 12 (Coaches), OSU Leslie O'Neal Award (Defensive MVP)
207 tackles (130 solo) / 14 tackles for a loss / 1.5 sack
2018 – 6 tackles (4 solo) / 2.5 tackles for loss
2019 – 3 tackles (1 solo) / 0.5 tackles for loss
Amen Ogbongbemiga (r-Sr, Linebacker, 6-1, 235-lbs)
2017 - First-Team Academic All-Big 12
2018 - OSU Outstanding Special Teams Player Award, First-Team Academic All-Big 12
Oklahoma State leads the all-time series 7-4 and has won the final five meetings with an average point differential of +9.2.
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