EditorsNote: corrects Big 12 records for both teams
No. 11 Okla. St. flashes D to outlast No. 22 W. Va.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Mason Rudolph tossed three touchdown passes, and backup running back J.D. King ran for 142 yards, but it was No. 11 Oklahoma State’s ball-hawking defense that deserved the game ball for the second consecutive week.
The Cowboys forced five turnovers during a 50-39 win over No. 22 West Virginia on a rainy Saturday to remain in the thick of the conference race.
Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) beat the Mountaineers (5-3, 3-2) for the third straight season by frustrating FBS touchdown-pass leader Will Grier, who was intercepted four times, one fewer than his season total before the game.
“The secondary played really good,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “I felt this was the best throwing quarterback that we have faced up to the point. It was turnover after turnover after turnover.”
Sophomore cornerback A.J. Green, thought to be the weak spot in the Cowboys’ secondary, made two interceptions as Grier finished 20 of 42 for 285 yards, snapping a string of seven 300-yard games.
“Green is learning to play the ball,” Gundy said. “And we talked in August about those guys needing to get some experience and play better in order for our team to have success.”
Rudolph, after nursing a sore shoulder all week, completed 20 of 34 passes for a season-low 216 yards and was marred by throwing a pick-six. But the senior mixed in two scoring passes to receiver James Washington and another to King, whose 41 touches in relief helped the OSU offense keep humming.
Rudolph also had a 1-yard touchdown run in the first half to put the Cowboys up 13-0 in the first quarter. That matched the total output from last week’s overtime escape at Texas.
“We got back to scoring a lot of points this week, which is good,” Rudolph said. “Our defense made an unbelievable amount of plays. Got us the ball back in plus field position and the score zone.”
Oklahoma State lost Big 12 leading rusher Justice Hill to an apparent arm injury on the game’s second play when he fumbled after a crunching hit by Xavier Preston and Kyzir White.
Hill did not return until the fourth quarter when his 5-yard touchdown run made it 37-24 on a drive extended by a 3rd-and-11 pass interference flag.
Hill tacked on an 18-yard score to make it a 19-point cushion with 3:47 left.
The Cowboys, tops in the nation in total offensive yards, outrushed the Mountaineers 246-62. The freshman King carried a season-high 36 times, including a 20-yard score that ballooned the margin to 23-3 in the second quarter.
“They beat us. They whipped us,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Obviously we couldn’t do anything offensively. It was pretty clear and evident to me that they were more physical than us. That’s kind of the bottom line to the game.”
West Virginia pulled within 30-24 in the third quarter, finding momentum on a blocked punt recovery in the end zone by Marvin Gross and a pick-six by Kenny Robinson.
“We basically handed them 14 points,” Rudolph said, “but we were really confident in what we could do.”
The Cowboys answered with three consecutive touchdown drives, including Washington’s 19-yarder that helped the All-America candidate finish with 91 yards on seven catches.
The Mountaineers finished 2 of 15 on third-down opportunities, and didn’t get the passing attack cranked up until it was too late. A 60-yard touchdown to Marcus Simms and a 9-yarder to Ka’Raun White in the final 8 minutes came after much of the 57,000 fans had departed.
“It was tough to get anything going,” West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “The run game, you’ve still got to stay true to it, but we struggled with hitting the big run plays to where we were stuck in a lot third-and-long situations.”
NOTES: Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph surpassed Brandon Weeden’s school career marks for touchdowns and completions. He also won his 29th game as a starter, taking the all-time lead over coach Mike Gundy. ... The underdog had won five straight in the series. ... West Virginia WR David Sills, who led the nation with 15 touchdown catches, was held to 44 yards on three receptions, though he did score on a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter. ... Cowboys RB Justice Hill entered Saturday averaging 127 yards per game; he finished with 86 yards on 12 carries. ... Mountaineers LB David Long made 18 tackles, including seven for loss.