#11 Oklahoma State Cowboys @ #22 West Virginia Mountaineers
Milan Puskar Stadium – Morgantown, WV
Score: #11 Oklahoma State (50) – #22 West Virginia (39)
The Oklahoma State defense out-muscled West Virginia’s dynamic receivers all day
The Mountaineers entered this game with one of the most dynamic passing offenses in the country, courtesy of the likes of David Sills IV, Ka’Raun White and Gary Jennings Jr. Each of the three is draft eligible and were on pace for 1,000 yards over the course of the team’s 13 games (assuming a bowl game).
And while QB Will Grier finished this contest with 4 interceptions, which nearly doubled his season total, there’s blame to be had on the boundary as well. The Oklahoma State defense was supposedly weak on the boundary, but a few ineligibles in CB AJ Green (#4) and CB Rodarius Williams (#8) did well to get into the bodies of their assignments and prevent the WVU receivers from getting into space clean.
The true standouts in the secondary were Safeties Tre Flowers (RS Senior, #31) and Ramon Richards (Senior, #7). The duo had a large presence in the middle of the field and influenced the catch point on a number of occasions, preventing big chunk gains on contested catch situations and breaking up multiple passes.
An underwhelming Quarterback duel on both sides
Three NFL executives were in house for this game and their eyes in the pre-game told the story. The expectation was for a great performance from both Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and West Virginia’s Will Grier.
Instead, Grier turned the ball over four times and had trouble with the Cowboys’ defensive pressure. Yes, receivers dropped nearly double digit throws. Yes, the offensive line failed to adequately protect the interior gaps. And the offensive route combinations didn’t exactly give Grier a lot of options to go with the ball (there were far too many long developing routes considering the amount of pressure Grier was under). But Grier HAS to make better decisions. Grier forced too many throws into coverage as compared to taking sacks or throwing the ball away in this game.
At this point, the end result is an outlier in comparison to the rest of his season. But it’s something to watch closely as the Mountaineers attempt to conquer the stiffest portion of their schedule.
On the other side, Rudolph was effective in the first two thirds of the game to simply take what the Mountaineers were giving him. Thin box? A run between the tackles. Off coverage on the isolated side of the field? 10 yard out route for an automatic first down. But then suddenly the Mountaineers dialed up some pressure, and the same issues that have plagued Rudolph for much of his career crept up. He got anxious in the pocket and lost accuracy throwing quickly to avoid the rush. He telegraphed a late out route on a 3rd down which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Rudolph rebounded well in the fourth quarter with a couple of clutch vertical throws to ice the game. But he feels to be limited in regard to his ceiling, his issues have been issues on film for multiple seasons
A few fast linebackers shine for West Virginia
My goodness. Have yourself a day, LB David Long (#11)! You need a full hand to count the number of tackles for loss this RS Sophomore logged. Now, Long is listed at 5’11 and 220 lbs, so he’s profiling as a bit of a tweener. But Long missed my first sampling of the Mountaineers against Virginia Tech to open the season with an injury and he was a difference maker in this game.
Another linebacker for WVU’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme stood out today for the right reasons as well. RS Senior LB Al-Rasheed Benton (#3) was fast to process and close on the ball in both the run and the pass. He was physical plugging gaps when tasked with filling a gap and made strong open field tackles as well.
Oklahoma State’s future at running back is all set
Freshman RB J.D. King (#27) was a HAMMER in this game. After Justice Hill left early in the game, King stepped up and handled much of the workload (25 carries for 99 yards in the first half alone). Thankfully, Hill was able to return to the game in the second half but not before King imposed his will on Mountaineers and helped re-gain control of the football game after a push from the Mountaineers edged the score to 30-24.
King ran with patience, power and clean cuts. His ability to wait out blocks before pressing up into the second level allowed him to get north with consistency and gouge the odd man front for West Virginia.