Fri, 30 Oct 2020

During Mike Gundy's tenure at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys have been known as a team that could always put up points. Stopping opponents from doing the same is typically the challenge.

In one sense, last week's season-opening 16-7 win over Tulsa had to be pleasing to Gundy. On a day where the offense sputtered almost all day after losing starting quarterback Spencer Sanders with an ankle injury, Oklahoma State's defense stopped the Golden Hurricane on all 12 third down plays and yielded only 278 total yards.

"The defense was fabulous," Gundy said. "Zero for 12 on third down and 1 for 4 on fourth down is really the story of the game. We gave up a wheel route for a big play, but other than that, I thought we were really good, particularly against the run."

Can the No. 15 Cowboys be really good again Saturday when they open Big 12 Conference play at home against West Virginia? The answer could reveal something about their chances to threaten for a conference title.

The Mountaineers (1-0) aren't expected to contend for Big 12 supremacy. Their offense was hit-and-miss last year when they suffered a rare losing season at 5-7, appeared sharp in their opener two weeks ago, a 56-10 rout of overmatched FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky.

WVU has gotten the benefit of several weeks preparation for this game. Coach Neal Brown used the season opener as a glorified scrimmage, made easier by a 42-7 halftime lead that allowed him to play everyone.

"We had September 26 penciled in as to when we really had to get our guys ready," Brown said. "That's no disrespect to Eastern Kentucky, but we were not going to be in tip-top football condition on September 12 - not after missing a whole summer program.

"So we really targeted the 26th to be ready to play a whole football game like we normally would."

Jarret Doege threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns in a half against Eastern Kentucky, while Alec Sinkfield collected 123 yards and two scores on just 15 carries. The Mountaineers finished with 624 yards, split almost evenly between rushing (329) and passing (295).

Oklahoma State's offense never found traction against Tulsa. The Cowboys not only used three quarterbacks, but are breaking in four new starters on the line. That might explain why junior running back Chuba Hubbard, who last year rushed for 1,936 yards, managed only 93 on 27 attempts to break a string of 11 straight 100-yard games.

Hubbard and his teammates could draw inspiration from the induction of former OSU great Thurman Thomas into the school's Ring of Honor. Thomas, the first inductee, will be honored at halftime.

For the second straight week, the crowd at T. Boone Pickens Stadium will be limited to around 15,000 to comply with social distancing protocol.

--By Bucky Dent, Field Level Media

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