MORGANTOWN — Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has been in the Big 12 long enough to know there are no easy road games on the conference schedule. It’ll be made tougher this week when his Cowboys travel to Morgantown for their first game in the eastern time zone this year.
“West Virginia’s a ways away, it’s kind of in a different part of the world from us,” Gundy said. “Our guys have to understand and prepare to play. They have a good home crowd; they get loud there.”
It will also be WVU’s homecoming celebration, only adding to the hostile environment.
West Virginia (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) defeated Oklahoma State (4-2, 2-1) in last year’s season finale in Stillwater, and the Cowboys will be looking to return the favor on Saturday (3:30 p.m./ESPN).
“If there’s something from last year that can motivate them to play good football with enthusiasm and effort, I’m all for it,” Gundy said.
Following a 2-2 start to the year with losses to South Alabama and Iowa State, the Cowboys have come out of their off week and won two straight against Kansas State and Kansas.
“I think Oklahoma State’s one of the hottest teams in the country,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “I really credit Coach Gundy and his staff. They had a low point, beat at home by South Alabama, but they’ve rebounded well.”
Part of OSU’s rebound has been the emergence of sophomore running back Ollie Gordon. In the first three games, Gordon touched the ball 25 times and gained 154 yards. Over the next three games, Gordon had 79 touches for 560 yards.
“I think the difference for them has been Ollie Gordon at running back,” Brown said. “He was special for them last week and he’s a tough tackle.”
Last week against Kansas, Gordon became the first Oklahoma State player in over 30 years to record over 100 yards rushing (168) and receiving (116) in the same game.
The Cowboys also have an experienced hand at quarterback in fifth-year senior Alan Bowman. Bowman spent the first three years of his career at Texas Tech and the next two at Michigan before landing with the Cowboys this season.
“This kid’s been through the league — he’s experienced,” Brown said. “He’s settled down and he’s playing well.”
Defensively, the Cowboys are led by linebacker Nickolas Martin, who leads the team with 54 total tackles, four sacks and eight tackles for loss.
“I think this might be the most-talented group, across the board, that we’ve played,” Brown said of OSU’s linebackers. “Penn State had some good guys, but this group, across the board, can really play.”
Although West Virginia is coming off of a disappointing loss to Houston, the Mountaineers had their best offensive performance of the year against the Cougars and feel they can continue that momentum.
Quarterback Garrett Greene threw for 391 yards, ran for 47 and scored four total touchdowns in the game.
“The quarterback runs way better than what people think he does,“ Gundy said. “He’s not a burner, he’s more effective than you think, he runs better than you think and he doesn’t get caught a lot of times.”
Running back CJ Donaldson also had his most-productive day since the Backyard Brawl and receiver Devin Carter had more yards (116) than in the previous three games combined (51).
“Neal’s a good guy and is somewhat battling back from what the perception may be of West Virginia football,” Gundy said. “They’re playing pretty good, he’s done a great job up there and they have good schemes.”
Kickoff from Milan Puskar Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.