Neal Brown’s third season at West Virginia has been a roller coaster to this point.
The Mountaineers started the season with a loss at Maryland before beating Long Island University and a No. 15 Virginia Tech. Then WVU started Big 12 play with a three-game losing streak before winning two games in a row to enter Saturday at 4-4.
Brown met with reporters Tuesday to discuss his team’s upcoming game with Oklahoma State. Here are three things he hit on.
1. ‘Violent’ Warren
Halloween might’ve come and gone, but Brown said the Cowboys have a violent slasher in the backfield in Jaylen Warren.
Warren should be fresh, coming off two weeks with a lightened workload. He has 586 rushing yards in Big 12 games, good for third in the league. Brown said Tuesday that the way Warren runs makes him stand out from the conference’s other good backs.
“Jaylen Warren runs as physical as anybody in our league,” Brown said. “The Big 12 right now is blessed with a number of super-talented running backs, and here’s another one. … The things that I really respect about Jaylen Warren is he runs the ball angry. I mean, he is a violent runner. He gets down hill. He breaks tackles. It’s impressive.”
2. Sanders’ First Shot at the Mountaineers
Spencer Sanders is in his third season as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, but this will be the first time he has played West Virginia, after missing the previous two games because of injuries.
In 2019, Dru Brown led the Pokes to a 20-13 victory in Morgantown before Shane Illingworth beat the Mountaineers 27-13 in Stillwater last season. Saturday will be the fifth consecutive year that OSU has started a different quarterback in the series: Mason Rudolph (2017), Taylor Cornelius (2018), Brown (2019), Illingworth (2020), Sanders (2021).
Despite the lack of consistency there, OSU is on a six-game winning streak against the Mountaineers.
“[Sanders is] a dual-threat guy,” Brown said. “He’s strong. He can run. He’s got a really strong arm. He can make all the throws. They utilize him a lot in the red zone.”
3. Experience Helping Cowboys’ D
Jim Knowles’ OSU defense is giving up only 17 points on average in conference games this season, a mark that is best in the league.
In five Big 12 games, teams are averaging just 274.8 yards on OSU’s D, another mark that is best in the Big 12.
So, to put it bluntly, OSU’s defense is good. Brown said Malcolm Rodriguez is playing linebacker “as good as anyone” in the Big 12 and that the Pokes’ experience is a big factor in how they’ve been able to shut teams down.
“Defense, they’ve been lights out,” Brown said. “They’re one of the top teams in the entire country defensively. If you look, I think they got nine seniors. If you go back, I think it’s nine seniors and two juniors that start. Those guys have played a ton of football over there. The defensive coordinator has been there four years now. Jim Knowles does a really good job. Those guys understand the system.”
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