After Saturday, Mike Gundy may think about spending more resources recruiting the San Antonio area. Thanks to the play of a pair of San Antonians – Ramon Richards and Vincent Taylor – Gundy picked up his 100th career victory with Oklahoma State’s 37-20 victory over 10th-ranked West Virginia at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Richards and Taylor played major roles in helping the Cowboys defense force three turnovers, giving the OSU offense a short field to score 17 points – the margin of victory. OSU improves to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12, while West Virginia drops to 6-1 and 3-1.
"I was very pleased with our coaching staff. West Virginia has done very, very well up to this point of not letting teams score points. We were able to score quite a few points, obviously, and our defense did a really nice job with turnovers,” said Gundy, whose record as a head coach is now 100-49.
"I thought Glenn (Spencer) and the defense made some really good adjustments on the inside passing game that West Virginia hit us on for a little while, but we were able to force some turnovers. It was interesting, there were times where we had really good pressure on the quarterback, and there were times we didn't have as much as we needed, but in the end, when you're plus three in the turnover category, you're really good in special teams and able to manufacture enough offense to score points, so it's a good win for all of us. I want the guys to enjoy this the rest of the day, and then get back to work tomorrow."
Taylor, the fourth-year junior from James Madison High School in San Antonio, made the first big play by the Cowboys defense early in the second quarter. He sacked West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard and stripping him of the ball which was picked up by OSU defensive end Cole Walterscheid, who returned it five yards to the Mountaineers 13-yard line.
Two players plays later, Mason Rudolph hit Chris Lacy on a slant route for the 5-yard touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 13-10 lead – which they would not relinquish the rest of the day.
The Cowboys led 20-10 late in the third quarter when Richards came up with the second turnover of the day. The junior from Brackenridge High School in San Antonio intercepted Howard’s pass down the field and zig-zagging across the field returned it 59 yards to the West Virginia 9-yard line.
It took the Cowboys three plays before Rudolph kept himself for the 2-yard scoring run to increase the lead to 27-10.
West Virginia scored twice in under six minutes early in the fourth quarter to pull with 27-20 before the Cowboys drove the length of the field to regain control. Rudolph hit Lacy for his second touchdown of the game as the Cowboys when back up by 14 points.
With time running out on the Mountaineers undefeated season, Howard was looking to make a big play when he threw over the middle only to have OSU redshirt freshman linebacker Kevin Henry come up with his first career interception. His 26-yard return to the Mountaineers 10-yard line set up Ben Grogan’s 22-yard field goal in the game’s final two minutes.
"What they've done is they've practiced, with fumble recoveries and interceptions, blocking in front of the returner, not away from the play, because that's an automatic 15-yard penalty even if it's legal, and not blocking below the waist,” Gundy said.
“The time that we've put into it and the players' ability to focus and absorb that information has paid great dividends for us, and today was a good example. You guys have watched a lot of football at this level. Most interceptions or fumble recoveries where a player runs down one sideline for 40 yards, cuts all the way back across the field and goes down the sideline for another 30, you're going to get a flag.
“I told them that the work that they've put in and the understanding of what we can and can't do made a huge difference today. We started on the 9-yard line, when in most cases you get an illegal block in the back and start on your own 30. It's been really important that our coaches coach it and our players understand it and are able to execute it,” Gundy added.
The Cowboys entered the game as the ninth-ranked FBS team in turnover margin, and that will only improve after gaining three against the Mountaineers while not turning it over a single time. Walterscheid’s fumble recovery was the team’s ninth of the year, which ranks among the top 10 nationally.
Taylor had a monster game with six tackles (five solo), 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one pass broken up. Middle linebacker Chad Whitener was also outstanding with a game-high 13 tackles (8 solo), one sack and a tackle for loss.
Offensively, Rudolph went his fourth consecutive game without an interception, completing 26 of 36 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. He had scoring passes of 5 and 7 yards to Lacy, and 3 yards to Jalen McCleskey.
"Well this one is pretty simple. Two pretty evenly matched teams. They made three plays that flat out affected the game. It's as simple as that,” said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. “They forced three turnovers. They took all three of them down into the red zone. Basically gave them 17 points and we lose by 17 points. That's the difference in the game.
“They're as good as anybody in the country at converting on turnovers. Congratulations to Coach Gundy on his 100th win. He's doing a great job with this program. You guys see this place. It's spectacular. They've got good players and coaches. They were better than us today."
OSU goes on the road to play next Saturday against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas.