MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The status of No. 15 Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders, who suffered an ankle injury last week against Tulsa, will make a major difference in the overall preview between the Cowboys’ offense and WVU defense during today’s matchup in Stillwater.
Mountaineers coach Neal Brown said his team will prepare as if the starter is going to play, and OSU coach Mike Gundy said Sanders will at least practice this week, but there has been no update since Monday.
Brown, however, did say the coaches will at least look at film on quarterbacks Ethan Bullock and Shane Illingworth, who both played in place of Sanders against the Golden Hurricane.
“We’ll prepare for the guy who started the year, which was Spencer Sanders,” Brown said. “It’s my assumption that if he’s well he’ll play. Now if another guy plays, we’ll adjust.”
Like last season, Sanders is questionable for Oklahoma State heading into the WVU game, but this time, the Cowboys are hoping for a different outcome. Sanders was eventually ruled out of the 2019 game, replaced by Dru Brown in Morgantown.
If Sanders does go today, his experience and leadership will go a long way in help a potent and veteran offense do what it was expected to do. On Sanders’ only drive of the game last week, the Cowboys were driving with ease but had to settle for a field goal after Sanders came up limp.
The rest of the game, Tulsa was able to hone in on star running back Chuba Hubbard, holding him to just under 100 yards and 3.4 yards per carry.
With inexperience at quarterback, too, OSU struggled to get the ball to All-Big 12 receiver Tylan Wallace, especially in the first half. Finally, in third and fourth quarters, Wallace was able to make a few big plays and draw pass interference calls as the Cowboys scored 13 points to sneak out with a 16-7 win.
If Sanders can’t go, Illingworth, a true freshman, will likely get he starting nod. Bullock was the first named called after Sanders was injured, but struggle mightily to get the ball moving and was sacked four times. Illingworth provided a spark last in the game, going 4 of 5 for 74 yards and did not take a sack.
If Sanders does not go, the WVU defense can try to focus on stopping Hubbard and backup LD Brown, who was one of a few bright spots last week after averaging 7 yards per carry. The Mountaineers can old bring pressure to get in the head of Illingworth and either force mistakes trying to get the ball to Wallace of Dylan Stoner, or take advantage of a struggling offensive line.
And that is the key — the WVU defensive front vs. the OSU offensive line.
“That will be as important a matchup as there is in the game — our D-line against their O-line,” Brown said.
Both units are led by veterans, but OSU did struggle last week, and if that continues, WVU could have the clear advantage, led by the Darius and Dante Stills, as well as Jeffery Pooler.
Another matchup to watch is Wallace against the young Mountaineers cornerbacks. Wallace did not play in Morgantown, but regardless, the only cornerback with experience is sophomore Nicktroy Fortune, so the Cowboys could take advantage of WVU’s youth in the secondary.
“Tylan Wallace is special. He had a groin injury last week and still almost went for 100 yards,” Brown said. “I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a guy I think is as good as any wideout in the country.”
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC.