No. 11 Ok. State Presents Challenges for WVU

MORGANTOWN – The last time Oklahoma State was in Morgantown, it didn’t fair too well. West Virginia blasted the Cowboys, 32-6.

That was in 1928, though.

In 2013, it may be a different story.

Perhaps 85 years is a bit too long for OSU to still have revenge on its mind, but the No. 11-ranked Cowboys are most certainly looking to leave the Mountain State with more than six points on the scoreboard.

Oklahoma State averages nearly 12 points in the first quarter alone.

”It’ll be a tough challenge all-around with a Top-10 team coming in undefeated,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. ”We are sitting here at 2-2, with both of our losses coming against teams who are undefeated, on the road, and who I think are really good football teams. This week is no different. That’s why we are excited to be in the Big 12. To be in these kinds of situations. To play teams who have a national standing and rankings, we have to step up and get a little better this week. If we do that then we will have a chance to win.”

Easier said than done.

West Virginia is coming off its first shutout loss since 2001. Oklahoma State enters the game a week after it hammered Lamar 59-3.

The Cowboys also come in as the Big 12’s highest-ranked team and have outscored their opponents, 108-13, in the first three quarters of games this season.

Again, the opposing quarterback will be the main focus of the Mountaineers defense.

This week it’s sophomore J.W. Walsh, arguably the best signal caller WVU has faced so far this season.

Through three games, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Walsh has thrown for 1,564 yards, 13 touchdowns and has completed 67 percent of his passes.

”He’s a winner,” Holgorsen said of Walsh. ”He falls in the long line of Texas high-school coach’s kids. His dad is the head coach at Denton-Guyer and has won a lot of football games there, he’s won before J.W. was their quarterback, and he’s won since J.W. has left. Texas high school football is good, being a coaches’ kid, watching him win games with the intangibles he has, you can see that on the sidelines and in practice. You can take those guys and make their skills better, and obviously they have.”

Walsh was last week’s Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after he connected on 24 of 27 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns. His 88.9 completion percentage set an OSU record for single-game completion percentage. He completed 10 straight passes on two separate occasions and added a rushing touchdown as well before being pulled with 9:47 to go in the third quarter.

The Cowboys, however, don’t solely rely on their aerial attack. Actually, Oklahoma State’s offense is built on balance.

In 2007, the Cowboys rushed for 3,161 yards and passed for 3,161 yards.

So far this season, OSU has 110 rushing attempts and 112 passing attempts.

In Week 1, Oklahoma State ripped off 286 rushing yards against Mississippi State, then turned around the next week and threw for 518 yards against UTSA.

”They are very well-rounded,” Holgorsen said. ”They are going to play with a tremendous amount of tempo. They try to snap it about every 20 seconds, which will be different compared to what we have seen.

”Right now, Oklahoma State is trying to play faster than Oregon, is what I hear. We are going to have to defend it. If you think this week is fast, then next week at Baylor is even faster. We will go against each other in tempo this week, probably more than we already have. I need to get to terms with the tempo and force ourselves to play faster. Regardless of whether it looks good or not, I have to force ourselves to play faster, to get into a rhythm, which will help our defense out.”

Another thing that would help the WVU defense out is if its offense held onto the ball.

Last week against Maryland, West Virginia lost four fumbles and quarterback Ford Childress threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a score.

”We have to field a punt, first and foremost, and if you look at our running backs, it’s spread out between them,” Holgorsen said of the team’s fumbles. ”We aren’t giving it to one guy, and he has a fumbling issue. It can be fixed pretty easily, and I think it will be this week.”

For the Mountaineers’ sake, it better.

In the first three games this season, turnovers have been a significant factor in Oklahoma State’s success. The Cowboys plus-1.33 turnover margin ranks second in the Big 12 and 11th in the nation. OSU has intercepted four passes and recovered a fumble.

”Our guys are trying,” Holgorsen said. ”We have talented running backs, and we have experience on the offensive line. We have receivers who can run and catch. We have guys who can do it; they are trying. If we can get a little better, then we can get some confidence. Then hopefully, it will steamroll. And we can start scoring points and winning games. You have to believe it’s going to happen, otherwise it will not happen.”