Air show expected when No. 11 Oklahoma State-No. 22 WVU meet
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Mason Rudolph vs. Will Grier. Get ready for an old-fashioned Big 12 throwdown.
The football should be flying around the field when Rudolph and No. 11 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) take on Grier and No. 22 West Virginia (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday.
Rudolph is the nation’s passing yardage leader. Grier has the most touchdown passes with 26 and the first Mountaineer to throw five TD passes in back-to-back games. The Florida transfer has surpassed 300 yards through the air in every game and has been praised for his pinpoint ability to hit a receiver in stride.
Oklahoma State has given up just four TD passes in conference play, the fewest among league teams.
“This will be the best passing quarterback that we’ve faced this year,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. “It will be a dogfight.”
Rudolph looks to beat West Virginia for the third straight year. He threw three interceptions against the Mountaineers in 2015 and three touchdowns against them last year .
“We are looking forward to the challenge,” Rudolph said. “We feel like we have a good plan.”
Rudolph, the school’s career passing leader, is averaging 379 passing yards. Oklahoma State is third nationally in scoring offense at 43.7 points per game.
West Virginia is right behind at 43.3 points.
“It’s going to be fun to play against a team like that,” Grier said.
Maybe not so much for the defenses.
“Welcome to the Big 12,” said West Virginia linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton. “They don’t waste possessions.”
Some other things to ponder as the Cowboys and Mountaineers meet:
Grier and Rudolph don’t wear capes. They’ve been vulnerable at times this season.
Grier is 1-2 against ranked opponents. Last week at Baylor, West Virginia built a 25-point lead in the first half but had to hold on for a 38-36 win .
Rudolph didn’t throw a touchdown pass last week at Texas, and Oklahoma State needed overtime to win 13-10 .
“It didn’t have anything to do with Mason or our wideouts,” Gundy said. “We didn’t run the ball very effective. If they’re going to line up and play pass and we can’t run the ball and get into second-and-five, it’s not easy to move the football.”
The Cowboys’ James Washington leads the nation with nearly 131 receiving yards per game, and don’t count out Marcell Ateman and Jale McCleskey, who have 33 catches apiece. Oklahoma State also has the Big 12 rushing leader in Justice Hill. “They’re a complete offense that will get you in a bunch of different ways,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
West Virginia’s David Sills V has 15 receiving TDs, six more than anyone else in the country, and teammate Gary Jennings leads the Big 12 with 56 catches.
Oklahoma State and West Virginia are in a four-way tie for second place in the Big 12 and need a win to keep pace in a tight race for a spot in the league championship game.
The injuries have mounted on the offensive line for Oklahoma State. Several linemen were banged up last week. The Cowboys are already missing right guard Larry Williams, who is out for the season with a leg injury. “I kind of felt like I was running a MASH unit there for a while,” Gundy said.
Gundy took a page from Alabama coach Nick Saban, who earlier this month referred to positive media hype as “rat poison.” Gundy wants his defense to remain grounded after a solid effort against Texas. “They were fantastic and the defensive staff was great, but here’s the bad news — West Virginia could give a flip about that,” Gundy said. “If they’re eating the rat poison, they’re going to get sick later in the week. So they better not eat the rat poison, because they’ve got a different challenge ahead of them this week.”