Breaking Down the WVU-Oklahoma State Matchup By Position
WVU faces its toughest test of the 2017 season with Oklahoma State.
By Franklin Markel
Last week, WVU held a 38-13 lead in Waco before giving up 23 unanswered points and barely holding on for a 38-36 victory. WVU struggled on the road last week and so did this weeks opponent, The Oklahoma State Cowboys. Oklahoma State escaped Austin with a 13-10 Win vs the Texas Longhorns. Two top 25 teams, two top 5 Quarterbacks, it’s going down in Morgantown on Saturday, Here is where the Mountaineers and Cowboys have their advantages.
West Virginia Advantages
This battle could go either way. Both QB’s are great and are a major reason for success of their teams so far. For West Virginia, Will Grier had another big game in Waco. He torched the Bears for 5 touchdowns and added 375 yards. He now clearly leads the country in touchdowns with 26. He is rising on everyone’s Heisman watch list and has a golden opportunity to beat another Heisman Candidate QB on Saturday. That QB is Mason Rudolph. He will play after suffering a “minor injury” Vs Texas. He has passed for 2650 yards and 21 touchdowns and only thrown 4 interceptions. He also has 6 TD’s with his legs. Rudolph has shown off his talents in certain games like his 497 yard and 4TD game vs Pitt or his 459 yard and 3 Touchdowns vs Baylor. This QB battle could go either way, I give it to Grier because Rudolph’s throwing game benefits from better wide receivers.
Oklahoma State Advantages
Justin Crawford seems to have run into a bit of a cold streak. He was held to 77 yards in his last two games and only ran for 30 vs Baylor. Despite his recent struggles, he’s still rushed for a solid 7 touchdowns this season. If West Virginia wants to win this game they need success on the ground from Crawford, Martell Pettaway, Kennedy McKoy, or Tevin Bush. Whoever it may be needs to rush the ball for yards to spread out the defense. The Oklahoma State rushing game has been very successful, thanks to Justice Hill. He has had some big time games this year, 164 yards vs Texas Tech, 132 yards and a TD vs Tulsa and 117 in both the Baylor and Texas games. JD King has also added yards and points from the RB2, he has 303 yards and 3 Touchdowns this season. WVU has the talent to win the rushing battle on Saturday but based on what’s happened so far this season the matchup goes to OSU.
The West Virginia wide receivers have continued to flex their talent. David Sills caught another 3 touchdowns on Saturday putting his season total up to 15 and he has a real chance to have one of the best seasons for a wide receiver in WVU history. Ka’Raun White racked up another touchdown and now has 4 in his last three games. Marcus Simms added a nice spin move and sprinted to score a highlight reel TD in Waco. This is a very talented WVU receiver core but it does not compare to one of the nations best in Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have NFL level talent across the field. James Washington has 9 touchdowns and 914 yards this season, including 145 yards and 2 TD’s vs Tulsa and 233 yard and a score vs Baylor. Jalen McCleskey has 433 yards and 5 scores this season, most of which came vs Pitt when he piled up 192 yards and 3 touchdowns. Oklahoma State also runs out Marcell Ateman. He has 655 yards and 4 touchdowns this season but wont start on Saturday. WVU and OK ST are loaded with talent at the Wide Receiver position but the visitors have the slight advantage.
The West Virginia offensive line continues to run the same crew out there. Kyle Bosch, Matt Jones, Josh Sills, and Colton McKivitz consistently play well but they have struggled a little recently with the rush game. As for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, They rock a very young and inexperienced offensive line, the center and both tackles are sophomores and freshman. They do however have very solid guards. Senior Zachary Crabtree has a NFL future at Right Tackle. Left Tackle Aaron Cochran is also a senior and transferred from Cal. Both teams have bright spots and both teams have struggles in the trenches but the Tackles give Oklahoma State the advantage.
Reese Donahue, Adam Schuler, and Lamonte McDougle are the 3 defensive linemen for WVU in their 3-3-5 scheme. To say the least, they could play better. They combined for just 14 tackles on saturday and the rushing defense has been atrocious this season for the Mountaineers. If they want to win on Saturday these three need to improve big time against Hill and Rudolph. Vili Leveni is getting the start on Saturday for OSU and he only has ten tackles all season. Dequinton Osborne, the Missouri transfer at defensive tackle, has twenty tackles this season and his partner Darrion Daniels had 8 vs TCU and 20 on the season. At the DE is Jordan Brailford, the star of the group with 28 tackles this season. These two teams have weakness at this position but Oklahoma State has the better defensive line.
Xavier Preston saved the game with a sack on the two point play with only 17 seconds left on Saturday. Al-Rasheed Benton had 8 tackles and David Long had 6 and a pass breakup. This is a linebacker group that has been progressing every week and has the talent to play with the best. It’s just the points that the defense continues to give up that hurt this group’s reputation. With that said, the Oklahoma State LB group has been very good so far. Kenneth Edison-McGruder, has missed 3 games this year including the Texas game last week but is expected to play on Saturday. In the 4 games he’s played he has 17 tackles and has made his presence felt. Chad Whitener, another Cal transfer, has been lights out all year, he has 36 tackles on the season and has been a beast in the MLB position. Justin Phillips also adds 34 tackles to a very solid Cowboy linebacker crew. Both teams have talent at this position, Oklahoma State has more.
WVU held Zach Smith so well, he got benched in the third quarter. That was a pretty good performance until Charlie Brewer came in and torched the WVU defense for 109 yards and 2 TD’s on 8 completions. The defensive backs did however have perfect coverage on the games most important play and White and Battle combined for another 16 tackles. The Oklahoma State defensive backs are made up of talent, and none are more talented than future NFL star Tre Flowers (not current NFL player Tre Flowers). He has 2 picks this season and 38 tackles. A.J Green (not current NFL player A.J Green) has 29 tackles on the season. Ramon Richards and Rodarius WIlliams also make plays down field too but don’t share names with any NFL players. This is a good strength for both teams but Oklahoma State pulls ahead.
WVU special teams played pretty well on Saturday. Marcus Simms had nice returns including a 45 yard kick return. Mike Molina made his 1 FG attempt and was 5-5 on point afters. Punter Billey Kinney was solid, averaging 39 yards a kick. For OSU, the kicker is Matt Ammendola, he’s struggling at 11-16 on field goals but is 39-39 on point afters. Punter Zach Sinor averages 43 yards a kick. This is a close one but Oklahoma State escapes with the win.
OSU has 7 of 8 positions, but this game could still go either way. WVU will be right in the middle of things, they have skilled players and they’re not that much less talented than OSU. With that said, Oklahoma State has the advantage at a lot of spots. In a Heisman showdown between Grier and Rudolph expect the probable rain to have its say in the game, OSU is better but it should be very close. 41-34 OSU.