Oklahoma State and West Virginia have found success in a different way this season.
The programs historically have relied on their offenses, but the Cowboys and Mountaineers are in the bottom half of the Big 12 in points per game in 2023.
Despite their offensive inconsistency, both teams are 4-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play thanks to improved defenses. Points might be at more of a premium than usual when the programs meet Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.
Oklahoma State, which is coming off back-to-back wins at home against Kansas State and then-No. 23 Kansas, is 12th in the league in points per game at 26.0.
However, the Cowboys are seventh in the league in fewest points allowed at 24.7.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said the key against West Virginia’s offense will be not letting Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene make plays with his legs.
“The quarterback runs way better than what people think he does,” Gundy said. “He’s not a burner. Like, you worried about the guy we played last week just taking off and blowing everybody’s doors off. This guy’s not that, but he’s more effective than you think.”
The Mountaineers are sixth in the league at 22.7 points allowed per game, but they are ninth in points per game at 28.5.
West Virginia is coming off a heartbreaking 41-39 loss at Houston during which it gave up a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game. The dramatic ending diminished a strong effort by Greene, who threw for 391 yards and two touchdowns, including a 50-yard TD toss to Hudson Clement with 12 seconds left that was nearly the game-winner.
Mountaineers coach Neal Brown said his side had plenty of opportunities to secure the victory before the last second and didn’t do so, and that the team would learn from the loss.
“You can’t control what happens all the time, but you can control your response,” Brown said. “So our response is we better fight and we better put better stuff on tape or it’s going to be a long year.”
Brown is impressed with how Oklahoma State has responded after a 33-7 home loss to South Alabama earlier in the year.
“You can tell they are playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Brown said. “I think offensively when you look at them, they’ve focused on running the football, and that’s something they didn’t do earlier. And they’ve settled on a quarterback (Alan Bowman).”
Bowman threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 39-32 win over the Jayhawks last week.
“We need him to sit in (the pocket),” Gundy said of Bowman. “Protection’s been really good the last three games. We need him to sit and keep his weight distributed properly. That’ll help him become a more effective quarterback for our team.”