Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders sat out on Saturday while dealing with an ankle injury, and even with the inexperienced freshman Shane Illingworth under center, the Cowboys were able to handle West Virginia on their way to a 27-13 victory.
Turning Mistakes Into Opportunities
The Mountaineers have to be kicking themselves after this one. They had some solid offense going early, but a lack of discipline cost them in a big way. After keeping the Cowboys out of the end zone for the entire first quarter, West Virginia’s defense fell asleep, and LD Brown was able to break loose for a 66-yard touchdown run to put Oklahoma State on the board early in the second quarter.
On the very next possession, the Mountaineers were marching deep into Cowboy territory before Oklahoma State defensive end Trace Ford managed to work his way into the backfield, forcing West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Doege to fumble the ball. Tyren Irby recovered for the Cowboys, and he ran the ball all the way back for a touchdown to put Oklahoma State up 14-0.
Immediately after the scoop-and-score by Irby, West Virginia marched right back down the field to the Oklahoma State 29 yard line. After failing to get the first down, the Mountaineers lined up to kick a field goal, but the holder bobbled the snap, and he was tackled for a 7-yard loss as opposed to playing a part in West Virginia adding 3 points to the board.
On top of those single-play slip-ups, the Mountaineers finished the game with 12 penalties for 106 yards. Two of those penalties helped advance Oklahoma State possessions which both ended in field goals. Another one turned a 4th and 6 situation—which the Mountaineers likely would have tried—into a 3rd and 21.
Needless to say, takeaway the self-inflicted mistakes, and West Virginia is likely in a much better spot to win this game.
LD Brown Deserves Some Praise
Chuba Hubbard is not just Oklahoma State’s starting running back: he’s also a dark horse to win the Heisman trophy. So far this season, however, and particularly today, backup running back LD Brown has looked just as good as Hubbard, if not better.
Early in the second quarter, Brown broke off a 66-yard touchdown run to put the Cowboys on the scoreboard. That play gave Oklahoma State a ton of momentum moving forward, and it was essentially the only big offensive play of the game for the Cowboys.
Take away the big run from Brown, and his average yardage per carry was not great today, but he still played with a ton of energy, which Hubbard has honestly lacked at times through the first two games. For the day, Brown racked up 103 yards on 11 attempts
Last week against Tulsa, Brown only carried the ball 9 times compared to Hubbard’s 27 carries. Even with a fraction of the carries, Brown finished the game with 63 yards, an impressive 7.0 yard per carry average, and just 30 yards fewer than Hubbard.
I’m not advocating that Brown be given more or even the same number of carries as Hubbard. Chuba is in the mix for the Heisman for a reason. Still, LD Brown deserves some praise for his efforts so far, and if he’s able to keep up the energy, he will continue to be an important part of Oklahoma State’s offense moving forward.
Work To Be Done
The Cowboys looked less than optimal in their 16-7 win over Tulsa last weekend, and while improvements were made over the last week, today’s performance was further proof that Oklahoma State still has a lot of work to do.
The offense has been the primary concern so far, and with good reason due to Spencer Sanders’s injury. Add that to the fact that the Cowboys lost a host of offensive lineman that they were banking on returning, and it’s easy to see why they have yet to get it all figured out. With those two issues, there is little room for error for Oklahoma State.
In the game against West Virginia, Chuba Hubbard fumbled twice in the second half, and thankfully, his offensive lineman saved him both times as they were able to recover the ball. He was able to redeem himself with a game-clinching 23-yard rushing touchdown with a little over a minute in the game, so perhaps he had a bit of a wake up call. He finished the game with 101 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Whether or not Spencer Sanders is able to play next week against Kansas does not change the fact that this team, particularly the offense, needs to keep improving. Playing against the Jayhawks would be a nice way for Sanders to ease back into playing, but if his injury is worse than what has been let on by head coach Mike Gundy, then Shane Illingworth needs to keep shaking off any freshman nerves and simply continue to get better.
One way the offense can improve is by throwing the ball more. It makes sense that with your starting quarterback out, you don’t want to get too risky with the pass game, but Illingworth finished the day 15-of-21 for 139 yards. He did throw an interception, and it was a pretty bad one, but let’s not forget that Tylan Wallace, Biletnikoff Award frontrunner, is on still on this team.