OSU-WVU game will impact the Big 12 championship race

The Big 12 championship race is realistically down to four teams and two of those will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday when Oklahoma State hosts undefeated No. 10 West Virginia.

West Virginia (6-0, 3-0 in the Big 12), No. 8 Baylor (6-0, 3-0) and No. 16 Oklahoma (5-2, 4-0) sit atop the standings while OSU (5-2, 3-1) is alone in fourth place.

A win over the Mountaineers is critical for the Cowboys to stay in the race.

West Virginia has had a steady but unspectacular season, beating Missouri, BYU, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and last Saturday TCU (34-10). Should the Mountaineers keeping winning, they could face a showdown with Baylor on December 3.

Last year, Oklahoma State topped WVU 33-26 in West Virginia.

The Cowboys were a bit sluggish – at least for the first half – in a 44-20 win at Kansas last Saturday.

“Our coaches made really good adjustments in the second half and our players did a nice job of taking it out on the field,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “Kansas’ adjustment defensively, in the third quarter, was blitz. They came out and brought pressure on the first down from the safety position. Then we had to adjust again after that.

“Defensively, we started to drop some down linemen, show more pressure in the back and for that reason we were able to force some turnovers. As you guys know, most of the games we play at this level, for everybody, are about turnovers, limiting big plays and being sound in special teams. Our special teams were excellent. We kicked the ball well, we recovered well. We made those adjustments at halftime.

“Kansas made the decision to play a guy over the top of James (Washington) today and limited his ability to get the ball, which allowed us to run the football. Then your slot receiver, which is (Jalen) McCleskey, gets essentially man coverage, for a lack of a better term. The adjustments we made were good. There are no easy wins. Each week they’re tough, no matter where you’re at.”

Kicker Ben Grogan broke Oklahoma State’s career scoring record in the second quarter with a 32-yard field goal. The previous record of 370 was set by Dan Bailey (now with the Dallas Cowboys) from 2007-10.

“I was happy for Ben Grogan, becoming the all-time leading scorer,” Gundy said. “That’s a great accomplishment for him. He’s a great young man, hard-worker, self-motivated. It’s a great team award, because obviously you have to score a lot or be in the position to score a lot for him to break that record.”

With 383 career points, not only is Grogan the Cowboys’ all-time leading scorer, but he is also the Big 12’s active leader and ranks fourth among all active FBS players. On the year, Grogan leads the Big 12 with 9.6 points per game and his 11 field goals made also top the conference charts. Grogan has made each of his last seven field goal attempts.

Justice Hill carried 22 times for 162 yards and a touchdown. Hill’s 162 rushing yards were the second-highest total ever for an Oklahoma State true freshman, trailing only Thurman Thomas’s 206 rushing yards against Kansas State in 1984. Hill’s average of 119.0 rushing yards per game in Big 12 play ranks third in the league.

On the year, Hill ranks second among FBS freshmen with 80.7 rushing yards per game. His 565 rushing yards are the most for an Oklahoma State freshman since Kendall Hunter had 696 in 2007.

OSU junior receiver James Washington had just one catch but it extended his streak of games with a catch to 26.

“We’re always trying to be ready for that,” OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph about the strategy of double teaming Washington. “That’s going to be something defenses are going to try to do to us.”

The Kansas defense had five sacks.

“They’re (KU) throwing different looks at us,” Rudolph said. “They’re trying to take away the deep ball and trying to pressure us. You’ve got to eat it sometimes and take care of the ball.”

Oklahoma State linebacker Devante Averette logged seven tackles, had a tackle for loss and recovered a fumble in the Cowboys’ 44-20 win at Kansas. On the year, Averette leads the Cowboys with 47 tackles. He also has 4.5 tackles for loss and two fumbles forced on the year.

“Coming into every game that’s what we work on, trying to get turnovers,” said OSU defensive tackle Vincent Taylor. “As a defense we got off to a slow start. We were able to come out and make some changes during the second half and we were able to get our offense back the ball.”

Gundy is now within one victory of the 100-win mark for his career. He is now 99-49 as OSU’s head coach in his 12th year at his alma mater.

“You’ve got to score 44 points in this conference to win games,” said KU coach David Beaty. “You have to. And it didn’t feel like it, I don’t think at times, but they scored 44 points. We have to be able to get in the end zone and score 44 points. I know we’re a work in progress, but we can do that.”