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WVU must get defensive

November 8, 2012
By JIM ELLIOTT - Special to the Herald-Star , The Intelligencer

The last time West Virginia and Oklahoma State played, the Cowboys won when West Virginia failed to execute a 2-point conversion play with 1:13 left in the 1987 Sun Bowl.

The last time West Virginia played anyone, it lost because it couldn't stop a 2-point conversion in overtime.

The Mountaineers, who have lost three straight, are hoping these things quit coming in threes.

Article Photos

FRESHMAN LEADER — Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett is brought down by West Virginia’s Karl Joseph in a game two weeks ago. Joseph has a team-best 47 solo tackles as a true freshman.
-- Associated Press

That won't stop when the idea is big offensive seasons in Stillwater, Ok.

In 2010, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy (the Cowboys' quarterback in that Sun Bowl) brought in then-Houston assistant Dana Holgorsen to take care of the offense, allowing Gundy to move into more of a CEO-type role.

Though Holgorsen left after that one season, his imprint remains.

''Dana was good for us,'' Gundy said. ''When we made the transition three years ago, it was good that we were able to make a smooth transition and be able to put up some good offensive numbers and score some points. It was good that he was able to come in here. We learned a lot from his system.''

The last two years, Oklahoma State has had its best two individual seasons of offense, and its on a pace to put up its fourth season in history of averaging better than 500 yards per game (the other was 1988 with Gundy at QB).

The Cowboys are No. 3 nationally in passing offense, averaging 356 yards per game and No. 20 in rushing offense (220 yards per game).

''If you look since he made that switch, they've won a lot of games,'' Holgorsen said.

That's a lot to think about for a West Virginia defense that looks to be taking steps in the right direction, but is still yielding, on average, 39.2 points per game (116th in the country) and 482.5 yards.

''It's going to be a tough test,'' WVU rookie safety Karl Joseph said. ''I think the biggest thing for us is just keep improving. We played a good game (vs. TCU) for the most part. From now on, it's just trying to build on every week. We can't take any steps back.

''They've got a lot of good skill players, and they run the same offense that we do, so we get a good look at it every day in practice. We just have to play hard with great effort.''

Two freshman quarterbacks, Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh, have each been injured at various points this season, with the Cowboys turning to junior Clint Chelf during last week's loss to Kansas State. To that point in his career, Chelf hadn't taken a meaningful snap and was overlooked by two freshman as the starter. Still, he completed 16 of 27 passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and an interception in emergency duty.

''He played really well,'' Gundy said. ''His decisions were good, he handled the offense and distributed the ball properly. It's not easy to get your first action on road against the No. 2 team in the nation trailing by 14.''

Through it all, Oklahoma State is averaging 355 passing yards per outing.

Running back Joseph Randle is the Big 12's leading rusher and No. 14 in the country, averaging 116.8 yards per game and 5.34 yards per carry. He has six 100-yard games, and 35 career touchdowns in 34 games.

Randle needs 66 yards against the Mountaineers to get to 1,000 for the season, a feat he'd accomplish for the second time in his career.

''Joseph Randle is a fantastic football player,'' Holgorsen said. ''He's one of my favorite kids I've ever coached. I had him for one year as a true freshman, and it means a lot to him. He lives it. He's quick-twitch, he's powerful, he's very skilled, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, you can throw him screens and you can line him up as a receiver and throw him the ball downfield. He's a good player.''

Sophomore receiver Josh Stewart is leading OSU in catches (56), receiving yards (666) and receiving yards per game (83.2).

Of junior receiver Charlie Moore's 474 receiving yards (on 28 catches) , 436 have come in the last five games, including two in a row where he caught a touchdown pass of 72 yards or more and he's scored a touchdown in four straight.

The Cowboys, who won the Big 12 title last season despite a defense that finished 107th in the land, have cleaned that up. They're 47th in 2012, allowing 377.5 yards per game.

In stopping West Virginia, Oklahoma State figures to do more of what Texas Tech, Kansas State, and TCU did, in limiting the deep pass. The Mountaineers offense has taken a nose-dive in recent weeks with that being as much a factor as anything else.

After all, as Holgorsen is quick to point out, neither he or his staff suddenly forgot how to coach.

''I don't think there's any question teams borrow,'' Gundy said. ''And borrow and don't give them back. You're always looking to see what plays had success against teams you're playing.

"If it fits your players, I think you take it and run with it.''

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