Oklahoma St.-West Virginia Preview
Oklahoma State likely can't keep using Ben Grogan's leg to stay unbeaten but a pair of comeback wins have given the No. 21 Cowboys some assurance in their squad.
They might need that for a visit to West Virginia and a matchup with one of the Big 12 Conference's other top defenses Saturday night.
Oklahoma State (5-0, 2-0) added to its best start in four years with a 36-34 victory over Kansas State last weekend on Grogan's 37-yard field goal with 32 seconds left.
The Cowboys also got a small assist in their rally from a 15-point deficit in the second quarter when they were mistakenly awarded a first down late in the first half and netted a touchdown on that drive. The Big 12 acknowledged the mistake in a statement Sunday and supervisor of officials Walt Anderson was expected to hand out disciplinary actions.
Oklahoma State opened conference play with a 30-27 victory at Texas on Sept. 26 that featured a combined 23 penalties with 16 for the Longhorns. Grogan kicked a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter, including a 40-yarder with six seconds left.
"We're a confident football team right now. We haven't won exactly how you would want to win, but coming away with two close victories early on in the season is going to help our football team in the long run," senior backup quarterback J.W. Walsh said. "We have a lot of experience with those games and having it under our belt is going to help on the road in a tough place like West Virginia."
Mason Rudolph threw for a career-high 437 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Kansas State, but the Cowboys couldn't get much going on the ground with 49 yards.
They have a combined 152 yards in their first two conference games after averaging 179.7 in their initial three contests.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, are averaging 214.3 on the ground this season, and Wendell Smallwood has totaled 258 in his past two games.
Smallwood had a then-career high 132 yards in a 34-10 win at Oklahoma State on Oct. 25. He topped that with 147 in a 45-6 rout of Maryland on Sept. 26 and has 258 of his 442 yards in the past two games.
The formerly No. 23 Mountaineers (3-1, 0-1) suffered their first loss last Saturday, 44-24 at then-No. 15 Oklahoma.
West Virginia still remains the league's stingiest defense with 16.8 points allowed per game and is second in total defense (337.2 yards per contest) behind Oklahoma State (310.0).
The teams are also in the top three in the conference in rushing and pass defense. Oklahoma State has a league-best 22 sacks - eight more than any other team - with 13 in its past two games.
West Virginia has a conference-high 10 interceptions - double any other squad - with Karl Joseph snagging five.
"He is the inspirational leader for our team. He studies the game. He's motivated. He's elevated his play. He expects everybody around him to elevate their play as well," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I can't say enough about how he is playing, and what he brings to this football team."
Holgorsen was an offensive coordinator under Mike Gundy in 2010 and has bested his former boss in each of the last two matchups. The Mountaineers scored a 30-21 upset over the 11th-ranked Cowboys in September 2013, the second meeting in Morgantown between the schools.
"The past years, they've had our number. Two years ago, we went up there and didn't play very well and then last year it went the same at home," Walsh said. "This year, I think it's going to be different. We have a good football team, playing well and just need to make sure we stay poised and composed on the road."
That win over Oklahoma State was one of West Virginia's two in its last 12 matchups against AP Top 25 teams.
Cutting down on penalties might prove a key to its chances of pulling off an upset this time. The Mountaineers have committed 21 for 235 yards in the past two games.