WVU ready for reloaded Oklahoma State offense
STILLWATER, OKLA. - There are a lot of new faces in key positions on the Oklahoma State football offense in 2018, but that hasn’t stopped the Cowboys from doing what they typically do - piling up yards and points while making big plays.
Gone are quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington, last season’s Biletnikoff Award winner, but the players Oklahoma State has plugged in to fill those vacancies have proven to be among the best in the Big 12.
Senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius served as Rudolph’s backup as a sophomore and last season as a junior. As the starter for the Cowboys, he’s kept OSU humming along. Cornelius averages 312.3 passing yards per game - third best in the Big 12 behind Texas Tech’s Alan Bowman and West Virginia’s Will Grier - and accounts for 335 yards of total offense per game, good enough for second-best in the league behind Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.
WVU knows it will have its hands full slowing down the Cornelius-led Cowboys when the Mountaineers visit Stillwater on Saturday (3:30 p.m. on WCHS-8).
“Their quarterback, Cornelius, is getting better every week,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He’s been there forever, so he’s been in that quarterback room for the last five years and knows what they want, knows what coach Gundy (head coach Mike Gundy) wants, knows what coach Yurcich (offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich) wants. He just needed playing experience, which now going into the 11th game of the year, he has plenty of playing experience. His production is extremely good, and their offense is extremely good.”
Receiver Tylan Wallace stepped in to take over for the departed Washington as OSU’s top target in the passing game. Wallace, recently named a Biletnikoff semifinalist, averages 128.2 receiving yards per game while catching just under seven passes per game.
As usual, Oklahoma State has more than one dangerous receiver on the field. Just last week, Tyron Johnson caught a touchdown and had 128 receiving yards on 11 catches in the Cowboys’ narrow loss to rival Oklahoma.
“In the pass game, they always have receivers that can make plays,” Holgorsen said. “You lose a Biletnikoff winner, and then you have another Biletnikoff finalist in the Wallace kid, who has been playing really well. (Tyron) Johnson, the other receiver, is a five-star kid out of Louisiana.”
One thing that is consistent from previous seasons for Oklahoma State is the play of standout running back Justice Hill. The speedy junior has scored nine touchdowns this season while averaging 93 yards per game on the ground, however he did miss most of the game against the Sooners with a rib injury.
As is the Cowboys’ style, they have more than one player who can make an impact at the position. Redshirt freshman Chuba Hubbard stood out last week in Hill’s absence, running for 104 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. Hubbard also is dangerous on kick returns for OSU.
“Anytime you have Justice Hill back there, it’s going to scare you to death, and then the Hubbard kid is coming on and running the ball as well as anybody, as well,” Holgorsen said. “We have to do a great job against the run; they will try to run it a good bit.”
Hill, WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said, is one of the most dangerous players to have to game plan for in the Big 12.
“He’s different,” Gibson said. “Some backs are big, strong and will run through you. They’re hard to bring down. This kid can run through you. He’s different. He’s so different than any other back that we’ve seen to this point.”
Hill is not expected to miss this week’s game against the Mountaineers, Gundy said this week.
“He’s been doing fine,” Gundy said. “We got him all X-rayed and CAT-scanned and he’s all clear. So just soreness and work through it. Took a pretty good hit.”