Football, Sports, WVU Sports

WVU set to finish season against Sanders and Oklahoma State

MORGANTOWN — Another game against Oklahoma State means another matchup with quarterback Spencer Sanders. The long-time Cowboy starter will play in his 44th career game when West Virginia journeys to Stillwater on Saturday (noon, ESPN2). 

“Offensively, it’s the same system they’ve been running for a long time,” WVU coach Neal Brown said. “I think as Spencer Sanders goes, they go. He’s been banged up a little bit, but I fully expect him to bounce back.”

The Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) have lost seven straight against Oklahoma State (7-4, 4-4) but catch the Cowboys at a low point of their season, having lost three of their last four games.

“They’re experiencing a lot of adversity in the second half of the season,” Brown said. “They’ve had a lot of injuries but it’s a group that plays a whole lot better at home.”

The reason for OSU’s recent skid can be explained by injuries, as the Cowboys have been rotating offensive linemen in and out of the lineup on a weekly basis based on who’s healthy enough to play, compounding the fact that Sanders has been at less than 100% for several weeks.

Sanders has thrown for 2,642 yards and 17 touchdowns with nine interceptions this season. It’s Sanders’ feet that have always been the most dangerous, however, and that’s taken a definite step back this season as he’s rushed for 391 yards and eight touchdowns. 

“He’s one of the most-elusive guys that we play,” WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said. “Kind of like a running back, he knows how to set his runs up in space and create angles. That’s probably what he does better than anything.”

As the Mountaineers look across the field and gawk at how long Sanders has been playing, Oklahoma is doing the same thing with WVU defensive lineman Dante Stills.

“Between (Sanders) and the defensive lineman from West Virginia, they’ve been there since the ’70s,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “When I turned the film on, I didn’t even know he was still playing and he’s playing again this year.”

Stills holds the WVU program record with 58 games played.

Gundy wants the Cowboys, who will make a bowl game, to finish the regular season with some positive momentum after falling in the annual Bedlam Series 28-13 to rival Oklahoma last week. He’s not assuming Saturday’s game against WVU will be a layup.

“There’s times when you watch them on tape they’re playing as good as any team in this league,” Gundy said. “And then there’s times I’m sure Neal would wish they played better.”

In order to defeat Oklahoma State for the first time since 2014, WVU will need to contain a Cowboys’ offense that is not as explosive as in years past and survive a defense that wants to rush the passer. Helping in that department will be the second start in the career of quarterback Garrett Greene and his scrambling ability.

“It’ll definitely help because they’re good up front,” Brown said. “It’s going to help because we’re going to lose some battles versus some of those guys. You want to win your share and we will win our share.”

Collin Oliver leads OSU with five sacks and four other Cowboys have at least three. 

Dominic Richardson has taken over at running back and has rushed for 543 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Brennan Presley is the team’s leading receiver with 56 receptions for 662 yards and a pair of scores.

On scholarship

Thanksgiving isn’t usually a holiday for giving gifts, but Morgantown’s own Nick Malone received quite the present Thursday. Malone, a Morgantown High graduate, is a redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman for the Mountaineers.

Following a morning practice, the Mountaineers were taking turns saying what they were thankful for.  When it got to Malone, he stood up and said, “I’m thankful for my family, and all of you guys included, and being able to represent West Virginia and being able to play on this field and wear this jersey.”

After Malone had finished, WVU offensive line coach Matt Moore added, “There’s one other thing, Malone, that you forgot to be thankful for, and it is …” Moore gestured to the scoreboard inside Milan Puskar Stadium where a sign read, “Nick Malone you’re on scholarship.”

“What a day,” Malone later tweeted. “Thank you to everyone that has believed in me to this point. A dream really turned to reality, I will forever be thankful.”

Malone has played in 15 games for WVU since walking on in 2019. This spring he won the Tommy Nickolich Award as the team’s most outstanding walk-on.

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