The Chalkboard: WVU – Oklahoma State

The Chalkboard: WVU – Oklahoma State


Oklahoma State has a potent offense. Texas was able to drastically limit its explosive qualities. Can WVU execute in the same manner?

While WVU figures to bring pressure in order to get Mason Rudolph “off the spot” and make him move in the pocket, the Longhorns were able to do so with different tactics. Often rushing just three linemen, and occasionally adding a fourth, UT was able to blanket the field with defenders, but also make Rudolph move while keeping him from breaking out with running room. That’s an extremely difficult double dip, the the Horns were able to do just that for much of the game.

It wasn’t foolproof, or a shutdown effort. OSU missed on multiple red zone scoring chances, including a 29-yard field goal attempt with just more than a minute remaining in the game. The Cowboys still had 428 yards of total offense, so it wasn’t a day full of three-and-outs for Mike Gundy’s attack. Still, UT provided a blueprint for at least limiting the orange wave. It held the Pokes to just 2.9 yards per rush.

Can West Virginia’s duplicate that? The Mountaineers did get six sacks against Baylor, their best effort in six seasons, but that was against a quarterback that was more immobile than the statues in the Hall of State at the Texas State Fair. Rudolph is a savvy runner – give him room and he can exploit it, although his choice is to remain in the pocket. Can West Virginia get to him with three or four rushers, and still cover the deep routes of James Washington and Marcell Ateman? That is the item to focus on when the Pokes have the ball. How many rushers is WVU employing, and are they capable of getting to Rudolph while also eliminating scrambling lanes?

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The corollary to the above item is the health of Oklahoma State’s offensive line. The entire interior of the starting line was out by the end of the OSU game. Center Brad Lunblade could be back for WVU, as might guard Marcus Keyes. Their absences were definite factors in some of their offensive problems, and if they are available, expect better play from the Cowboy offense.

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The series between OSU and WVU is split at an even four games each, and has followed the pattern of two WVU wins, two OSU wins, two WVU wins, two OSU wins. That makes it West Virginia’s turn, right?

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It hasn’t been a factor this year, but here it comes. Rain could play a big part in Saturday’s game. Current forecasts are calling for 100% chance of precipitation, with a high of only around 50 degrees.
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Without the water falling from the sky, that’s a beautiful football day. But rain makes a big difference. How will affect each team, and will it affect one more than the other? Does a wet ball bother either, or both, quarterbacks? West Virginia hasn’t had any bad weather so far this year. How does it react if there are buckets pouring over Mountaineer Field?

Some percentage of this is in each team’s mental approach — mind over matter. As in, “I don’t mind, because the rain doesn’t matter.” But it can have an effect, from pass route running to backs cutting to tackling. There’s also the kicking game to consider, as well as the basics of catching and holding on to the ball. For some reason, the inkling is here that the Cowboys might have an edge if the rain commences as forecast.

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Everyone should know that David Sills could become West Virginia’s single season touchdown reception leader. He has 15 through seven games this year, a pace that would shatter Stedman Bailey’s 25 scoring grabs in 2012. But there’s another Mountaineer receiver on near-record pace.

Gary Jennings has 56 catches over the same seven game span, an even average of eight per game. Six more such performances would give him 104 on the season – the fourth-best single season showing in WVU history, behind Bailey and Tavon Autin (114) and Kevin White (109). To catch the prolific duo, Jennings needs to average 9.6 receptions per game.

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Toyous Avery

Injury and availability discussions tend to dominate analysis of games as the schedule heads toward November, and that’s for good reason. By this point in the year, a good picture of a team’s strengths and weaknesses is established, but the one item that fluctuates from week to week is the health of a team. OSU’s offensive line issues were touched on above, and WVU has its own sore spot in the secondary. Kenny Robinson missed the entire Baylor game, and Toyous Avery’s departure threw the back end into a state of temporary disrepair. West Virginia desperately needs both of those players on the field on Saturday, and if they are not, the Mountaineers will be severely limited in what they can call, even with the week of practice as a crash learning course.

WVU has several different options it can employ to fill the gaps if necessary, but none are proven. It’s just the latest in a long line of juggling jobs that the defensive staff has had to perform this year.

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Quarterback Mason Rudolph can become the all-time winningest quarterback in OSU history with a win on Saturday. When he does get his next win, he will pass current head coach Mike Gundy on that list. Both are tied with 28 career wins.