When: October 29th, game time TBD
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, OK)
Watch/Listen: Cowboy Radio Network (TV broadcast TBD)
The Mountaineers rolled through non-conference play without even a scratch, only to hit a brick wall with their first four conference opponents. Oklahoma brought WVU back down to earth with a 44-24 loss, and WVU followed up with three more losses in a row to Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU. The schedule makers were just plain cruel to WVU.
After thinking their season was over, WVU rattled off a 5-1 record to end the season, including a Cactus Bowl win against Arizona State.
Last year, our match up in Morgantown was a true tale of two halves (plus an OT.) The first half belonged to the Pokes. The game started off as a tug-of-war for field possession, however, things changed when Emmanuel Ogbah jumped on a fumble in the end zone for the first 6 points of the ballgame. OSU had the momentum for the second quarter as they went on to score 10 more points, ending the half at 17-2.
In the second half, the momentum swung hard in the opposite direction, as Wendell Smallwood and Shelton Gibson made two big time plays to bring the Mountaineers within 6. With just under three minutes left in the game, WVU quarterback, Skyler Howard, scrambled his way into the end zone to tie the game at 26, which ultimately forced overtime.
Oklahoma State’s offense put a good game plan together, and made it down to the two yard-line. 4th and 1 at the two yard-line, Coach Gundy decided to go for it; the game was put on J.W. Walsh’s shoulders. The senior dual-threat QB delivered, as he plunged himself up the middle to squeeze into the end zone. The game ended after Skyler Howard’s long incomplete pass in the end zone.
Who to watch for:
Offensively, senior quarterback Skyler Howard has proven to me that he belongs to be in the conversation with the other top QB’s in the conference. Howard is not flashy, but very serviceable, and seems to play within himself (a very positive trait for a quarterback to have, in my opinion). West Virginia relied heavily upon their running game last season, but with Wendell Smallwood’s departure, I expect the ball to be in the hands of Howard a lot more over the course of this upcoming season. Last season, Howard threw for 3,145 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also seems very adept at using his legs as a weapon, adding six touchdowns on the ground.
Defensively, with the injury of Dravon Askew-Henry, the most dangerous player on that side of the ball will likely be senior defensive end, Noble Nwachukwu. With the emergence of Nwachukwu as a force on the edge, it’s possible that his biggest impact will be with his fellow defensive lineman. Likely to be doubled often, Nwachakwu should create one-on-one match ups along the trenches, giving players like Christian Brown and Darrien Howard more chances to make plays in the backfield. Despite the added attention, I still see Nwachukwu matching or increasing his 8.5 sack total from last season.
What we will learn from our match up:
We will learn if the inexperienced Mountaineers defense can keep up with a very veteran Oklahoma State offense. Folks, this may be a high scoring affair. Both teams are coming back this season with their offenses somewhat intact, however WVU has taken some huge hits on the defensive side of the ball. With losses at the linebacker, safety and corner positions, the Mountaineers will be looking for some younger players to step up. I have no doubt that the new starters will know their scheme to a “T”, but the lack of experience still has to be unsettling for Mountaineer fans. This also makes the Askew-Henry injury that much more painful. We will see what happens with that defense in the future, but I believe their inexperience will show.