When Oklahoma State headed into the fourth quarter trailing Tulsa 7-3 this past Saturday, many in Stillwater were undoubtedly holding their breath.
Perhaps because the No. 15 Cowboys were almost out of breath.
It’s certainly something to watch when WVU visits Boone Pickens Stadium for this Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. Big 12 matchup on ABC.
Read this remark from OSU coach Mike Gundy on Monday:
“We were not in very good shape Saturday,” Gundy said. “We’ve had a lot of practices, but they’ve not been consistent practices. When we went to Oregon State last year, we were running on all cylinders. We were a machine when it came to our cardio.
“We were pretty average in this last game for a variety of reasons. Myself and [conditioning] Coach [Rob] Glass had great concerns about that. But we also had great concerns about pushing guys too hard in practice because of what’s happened with the virus.”
Understand that Oklahoma State did win by 16-7 against Tulsa. Also understand the Cowboys are 8.5-point favorites against the Mountaineers this coming Saturday.
But WVU fans shouldn’t give up hope – especially if coach Neal Brown has the Mountaineers in peak physical condition.
“We were probably at 75 percent on Saturday,” Gundy said of OSU. “Hopefully we can be at 85 percent [against WVU] and then maybe the next week 95 percent or better.”
So, yes, I’m saying there’s a chance even though Oklahoma State has Heisman Trophy candidate Chuba Hubbard and other standouts.
WVU has a chance for a few reasons. First, the Mountaineers should have gained confidence watching OSU struggle to a nine-point win over Tulsa. The performance dropped the Cowboys four spots in the A.P. Top 25 rankings.
Second, Oklahoma State starting quarterback Spencer Sanders suffered an apparent right ankle injury late in the first half against Tulsa.
“We booted him up,” Gundy said. “We’ll take it off on Tuesday, put him out there on Wednesday and go from there.”
Gundy first went to junior college transfer Ethan Bullock at QB against Tulsa before moving on to true freshman Shane Illingworth, who won the game.
Also, despite the presence of ex-WVU standout Josh Sills, the OSU offensive line has been playing “musical chairs,” according to Gundy. That might play into WVU’s hands with the Stills brothers along the Mountaineer defensive front.
“We were below average based on musical chairs,” Gundy said of his offensive line. “Hopefully we can get set in what we need.”
By the way, Gundy said this of Sills, the 6-6 redshirt senior from Sarahsville, Ohio, who was a second-team All-Big 12 standout as a sophomore for WVU:
“Josh has been really good for us,” Gundy said. “He came in and competed. It took him a while to get back in shape. He was off, then the virus hit. He went home and, I think, hunted for three months and had to get in shape again. But he’s been good for us. He likes to play football. He’s a good leader and a good person. We’re certainly glad he’s on our football team.”
Sills starts at left guard now after sitting out most of 2019 and entering the transfer database.
Anyway, Oklahoma State struggled with Tulsa. It’s starting quarterback may return, but he will certainly be hobbled. Its offensive line is trying to find its way.
But there is a big problem yet for WVU: OSU’s defense. Tulsa was 0-of-12 on third downs. The Golden Hurricane scored just seven points.
“I was thinking how nice it was I was comfortable in the game because we were stopping them,” Gundy said. “Everybody knows in the Big 12 play that’s not what’s happened over the last 10 years. Everybody has held their breath to see who has the ball last – because who has the ball last scores and wins.
“But we were stoning them on defense.”
Keep an eye on OSU linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, the Big 12 defensive player of the week.
But also keep an eye on the Cowboys’ wind on Saturday. It may be a key against WVU.
Gundy is certainly concerned.
“We’re going to have to push them,” Gundy said. “We had that discussion [Sunday], myself and Coach Glass. We have to push them now. We’re healthy. We’ve had discussions with our medical team, Dr. [Val Jean] Iven, our team physician, with where we’re at. We feel good about the cardio and health because we’ve been very fortunate with the virus. So, we have to begin to push them now and get in better shape. We’ll push them now more than we have in the last few weeks.”
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.