MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s “preseason” came to an end this past weekend as the Mountaineers turned their attention to the Big 12 Conference opener Saturday at Oklahoma State. While the September 12 matchup against Eastern Kentucky occupied the focus of his team during game week, head coach Neal Brown acknowledged that the Mountaineers have been ramping up throughout the preseason to peak for OSU.
“Just getting better,” Brown said. “We treated it like a continuation of camp. We practiced four times, practiced hard and practiced physical.”
The Cowboys struggled mightily on offense in their 16-7 season-opening win Saturday against Tulsa. Running back Chuba Hubbard was limited to 85 yards from scrimmage and wideout Tylan Wallace was held in check until late in the game. He finished with 4 catches for 94 yards.
“It is what it is. I don’t think that was an accurate representation of who they are offensively.
“They are an explosive offense. They have NFL players across the board at their skill positions. I expect them to play as a unit, much, much better.
Oklahoma State starting quarterback Spencer Sanders suffered an ankle injury in the first half of Saturday’s win over Tulsa. OSU head coach Mike Gundy said Monday that Sanders is in a walking boot and is expected to practice later this week.
“We’ll game plan as if Sanders is going to play. I think that is how you have to go about it. We’ll adjust if he doesn’t but we’ll game plan as if he is going to play.
“He has elite speed for the quarterback position. You could see that on a couple of the runs he had early in the contest on Saturday, but also in the games last year. He is a threat on scrambles and on called runs.”
If Sanders is unable to play Saturday against the Mountaineers, Gundy could turn to freshman Shane Illingworth. He completed 4-of-5 passes for 74 yards against Tulsa, leading OSU to 13 unanswered points to seal the victory.
“I thought he was composed and executed very well, Gundy said. “I don’t know that we could have asked him to do more than what he did. So we were pleased with his play.”
No spectators for Baylor game
The WVU Department of Athletics announced Monday that next Saturday’s Big 12 home opener vs. Baylor will be played in front of families of players and coaches only. It will be similar to the season opener vs. Eastern Kentucky, which saw just 976 fans inside Milan Puskar Stadium. The game will kickoff at noon and be televised by ABC.
“I understand it’s a disappointing decision but it’s the correct one. We have to do what’s best for the safety of the University and our local community,” Director of Athletics Shane Lyons said. “Our plans for a socially distanced seating manifest in the stadium have been ready for some time, but we need conditions to improve on campus and in the community before we can proceed. I encourage everyone to test when the opportunity to do so is made available.
“I continue to ask Mountaineer Nation for its understanding. We are doing everything possible to have fans at our home football games this season, and I can assure you that our players, coaches and department staff want that to happen. Taking aggressive and appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of this virus along with regular testing remains the key for all of us.”