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10 Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 48-34 Victory against West Virginia

On Ollie’s greatness, dominating the Country Roads and more.



[Bruce Waterfield/OSU Athletics]

The Cowboys are more than comfortable taking the Country Roads.

Oklahoma State beat West Virginia 48-34 in Morgantown on Saturday to advance to 5-2 on the season. Here are 10 thoughts from the game.

1. Ollie Gordon Is Special

Oklahoma State has had a string of outstanding running backs — even in the modern era.

Guys like Justice Hill, Chris Carson, Chuba Hubbard and Jaylen Warren were all great for the Cowboys. And this might be recency bias, but Ollie Gordon might be the best of that bunch … and he is only a true sophomore.

Gordon ran for 282 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries against the Mountaineers. That’s the ninth most rushing yards in a game in an OSU uniform behind Barry Sanders (five times), David Thompson, Hubbard and Thurman Thomas.

To me, the most impressive part of this performance is that he had to be atop West Virginia’s scouting report entering this game after torching the Jayhawks for 168 rushing yards and 116 receiving yards last weekend. The Mountaineers knew they’d have to stop Gordon, and they couldn’t.

In Big 12 play (ya know, when Gordon started being the featured back), Gordon has rushed 97 times for 707 yards (7.2 YPC) and six touchdowns. Special stuff.

2. And He Got Better as It Went On

A performance so special it deserves two thoughts.

At 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, Gordon is a punishing runner with enough elusiveness to slip an overly aggressive tackle. Tackling him for four quarters looks like quite the chore, enough of a chore where defenders stop attacking him so gleefully as the game rolls on.

In the fourth quarter alone Gordon ran nine times for 149 yards and three touchdowns. A good chunk of college running backs never have a game that good, much less a quarter. That’s 16.5 yards per carry of ridiculousness.

When he gets into the open field, tackling him just feels flat-out unlikely. His strides look like James Washington, just gliding at what feels like 10 yards a step.

3. Points

The Cowboys surpassed the dreaded 30-point mark last weekend; this weekend, they scored 35 points in the second half alone.

The 48 points the Pokes hung in Morgantown are the most they have scored in a road game since the season-opener against Oregon State in 2019. The last time regardless of location OSU has scored that many points was against Arkansas-Pine Bluff last season.

After scoring just seven points against South Alabama, the Pokes’ offense has awoken from its yearslong slumber. Gordon, picking a quarterback and the offensive line figuring something out have all gone into that.

4. Gunners Gone Wild

I believe the gunner is technically the player on the punt team, not on the punt return team, but it was too good a headline to not use.

Anyway, this game featured two players running into their own punt returners trying to catch a ball.

The first came after OSU’s defense promptly forced a three-and-out on WVU’s first drive of the game. Kale Smith bumped into Brennan Presley, and the ball glanced off Presley’s fingertips before the Mountaineers’ punt team was able to wrangle the ball.

Kendal Daniels got the ball right back for OSU by picking WVU Kole Taylor like a booger, ripping the ball from his hands.

Then in the fourth quarter (with OSU down 24-20), OSU sent a punt downfield and Andew Wilson-Lamp might’ve should’ve gotten a targeting call for what he did to Preston Fox

In the mass amounts of confusion caused by a guy decleating his teammate, Parker Robertson just fell on the ball when he probably could’ve picked it up and ran in (update: you can’t advance a muffed punt), but it ended up not mattering because Gordon scored on the ensuing possession.

Something tells me both of these teams are going to be repping punt return one or two extra times this week just to make sure everyone knows to not kill your own return man.

5. Fourth-Down Defense

The rise of analytics has meant more teams going for it on fourth down – – Mike Gundy is counteracting that but shutting teams down on fourth down.

Down late, the Mountaineers were forced into a pair of fourth-down attempts Saturday, and they didn’t get either. Teams are now 3-for-14 on fourth down against OSU this season – – that includes Big 12 teams going 2-for-9 on the down against OSU.

West Virginia’s first attempt came with just under five minutes to play. It was 4th-and-2 on the 50-yard line with OSU leading 34-27. Garrett Greene was flushed to his left, and he had nowhere to go, as Kendal Daniels closed in on him and roped him down for a 4-yard loss.

The Mountaineers had two shots on their next fourth-down attempt, as an offsides negated a Kale Smith interception with about a minute to play. But then on 4th-and-5, Greene threw a pass to Devin Carter, but D.J. McKinney swatted the pass into the ground, and that was the game.

West Virginia’s fourth-down attempts weren’t really analytic-based, but the warning is there for the analytic coaches: you might want to think twice before going for it against the Cowboys.

6. At Home on the Country Roads

I have no doubt that Milan Puskar Stadium is a tough place for visiting teams to play, but if the Cowboys don’t own the place, they might be leasing it.

OSU is now 5-1 in the 60,000-seat stadium and has outscored the Mountaineers 196-145 in those six meetings. OSU is averaging 32.7 points a game in the stadium.

Entering Saturday, WVU had given up a combined 36 points at home in three games. And this OSU squad came into the game averaging just 26 points a game on the year … only to go for 48.

7. Nickolas Martin, a Tackling Machine

After the first quarter, Nickolas Martin was on pace to finish this game with 28 tackles. 

He didn’t. He finished with only 17 tackles – – the same amount he had against Kansas State two weekends ago. Martin also had 1.5 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry against the Mountaineers.

He is up to 50 tackles in Big 12 play and 71 on the year. 

More reference, Malcolm Rodriguez had a career-high of 15 tackles against Missouri State in 2021. Martin, only a redshirt sophomore, has already bested that twice. Sure, it’s a different scheme, but that’s just to say Martin is absolutely everywhere.

8. Discipline (and Toughness)

The Cowboys actually lost the penalty yardage battle, but there were a few back-breaking ones for WVU.

The biggest penalty (well, set of penalties) came on a 5-yard Gordon run in the fourth quarter. The game was tied at 27 when Gordon got his facemask tugged on before being blasted on the OSU sideline. With the unnecessary roughness being a dead-ball penalty, that play took OSU from its own 29-yard line to the West Virginia 36-yard line. OSU scored three plays later.

The Cowboys had seven penalties accepted against them, but they were the more standard false start/pass interference types. That stuff still needs to be cleaned up, but not to the extent of what WVU will need to do.

9. Special Teams Uncharacteristically Rough

The Cowboys muffed a punt, punted a ball into a blocker and missed a field goal Saturday — and still won.

Even through the rough stretch of OSU’s season, the Pokes’ special teams had been solid, and it’s the funny part of football that they won a game (and scored 48 points no less) where all that went wrong.

Gundy’s history says the punt issues will likely be cleaned up in practice this week, and for as much as Hale has had to kick this year, he is allowed to miss.

Hale went 2-for-3 Saturday, hitting from 37 and 29 yards and missing a 31-yarder. He is now 17-for-21 on the year. Tanner Brown kicked just 23 field goals last season. Hale still has five regular season games to play.

10. Bowl Eligibility Is a Game Away, but What about Arlington?

Going into the bye week, the 17-year bowl streak was on life support. But now the Pokes have ripped off three straight and need just one win against a schedule of Cincinnati, Oklahoma, UCF, Houston and BYU to extend the streak to 18 seasons.

In this topsy-turvy sport of college football, is it more likely now that the Cowboys make it to Arlington for a shot at a Big 12 title OR was is more likely after the Iowa State game that OSU wouldn’t reach bowl eligibility?

Both OU and Texas struggled on a Red River hangover Saturday, and if OSU could take care of business against the conference newcomers, the Cowboys could be waiting like a pack of wolves for the Sooners or Longhorns to slip up.

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