Oklahoma State’s running game is atrocious. The Cowboys only managed 109 rushing yards – and 40 of those came on a scramble by Mason Rudolph – during the first four quarters of Saturday night’s game at West Virginia. But when it mattered most in overtime the 19th-ranked Cowboys ran it six consecutive times, capped by J.W. Walsh’s 2-yard touchdown on fourth down, to rally for a 33-26 victory over the Mountaineers.
Walsh’s keeper – just his fourth rush of the game – capped a wild game before a sold-out crowd of nearly 60,000 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. It was OSU’s first ever win at West Virginia in three games.
The Cowboys – winners of eight consecutive games dating back to last season (tied for the third longest winning streak in school history) – are now 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big 12 entering a bye week. They will enjoy the week off before playing Kansas on Oct. 24 for Homecoming.
“The accumulation of the last 10 weeks [since the start of practice in early August] and the last two games, we were beat down a little bit but they found a way to win,” Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy said.
Even though they led 14-0 early in the second quarter and 17-2 at halftime, it was anything but an easy win for Gundy’s squad.
In overtime, back-to-back 7-yard gains by Rennie Childs gave OSU a first down at the 11-yard line. Runs by Childs (2 yards) and Walsh (6 yards) moved the ball to the 3, but Mason Rudolph’s keeper came up short of the first down. Facing fourth-and-1 from the 2-yard line, Gundy decided to go for the touchdown instead of kicking a field goal, sending Walsh back into the game.
“We got to the fourth down and the yard or yard and a half, whatever it was, but there really wasn’t any decision,” Gundy said. “I guess there was a decision [but] I had already thought that through.
“As soon as the overtime starts I had in my mind what we wanted to do if we got to fourth down, and that was to go for it unless it was out of the realm. Because I just didn’t feel like that if we kicked a field goal on the road, the crowd would have gone crazy knowing that all they had to do [to win] was score, and momentum was already against us.”
“We trust J.W. We blocked the play well, and if we don’t … J.W. has a really good ability to slide sideways, turn his body and get a yard. I just have a lot of confidence in him, and Mike [Yurcich] made a good play call, changed up the scheme. That’s the first time we’d run that blocking scheme out of that package in this game. It worked for us.”
The fifth-year senior quarterback took the snap out of the pistol formation and patiently waited for pulling guard Paul Lewis to clear the way as he scored the go-ahead touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 33-26 lead after Ben Grogan’s point-after kick.
“It wasn’t as pretty as you’d want it to be but at the end of the game we made plays when we had to do it, and ran the ball,” said Walsh, mentioning the Cowboys inability to run the ball effectively for most of the game.
But after Walsh scored it was the Cowboys defense that made the plays after West Virginia had a first-and-goal at the 9. Jordan Burton dropped Mountaineer running back Rushel Shell for a 7-yard loss on third-and-goal, forcing West Virginia into a fourth-down play from the 11-yard line. Mountaineer quarterback Skyler Howard’s fourth-down pass to Daikiel Shorts in the end zone fell incomplete, and the Cowboys were victorious.
The Cowboys are now 6-0 for the fourth time in Gundy’s 11 years as head coach (2008, 2009, 2011 and 2015). In 103 seasons before Gundy took over the program in 2005 there had only been two 6-0 starts (1945 and 1997) in school history.