EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 18th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
WVU coach Dana Holgorsen was at OSU for just under a year, but managed to turn the offense into a powerhouse in that time. When he left, the Cowboys just kept cranking out the yards and the points in the system he implemented behind Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon.
Weeden and Blackmon are gone now, too, but that doesn't seem much of a concern around Stillwater because the system is in place and the recruits and talents just keep pouring in to operate it.
Next up is a true freshman, 6-foot-4, 211-pound Wes Lunt, who arrived on campus in January and by late April had won the starting job at quarterback. But his won't be an easy job, not with the top two receivers (including Blackmon) gone and operating behind an offensive line that must replace four starters. But 6-1, 194-pound junior Joseph Randle became one of the most productive and versatile running backs in the country last year, running for 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns and catching 43 passes for 266 yards.
The defense is a tough one to figure out. It gave up a ton of yards last season because the offense scored so much and teams had to attack like crazy to catch up, but the Cowboys also had a staggering 44 takeaways. This year? Any of the three linebackers (Shaun Lewis, Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey) could be all-conference and the secondary is perhaps the best in the league with Daytawion Lowe and Brodrick Brown. The line does need to stop the run better, though.
The kicking game, despite the loss of special-teams coach Joe DeForest to WVU, should be just fine and then some. Quinn Sharp averaged 46.3 yards per punt and made 22-of-25 field goal attempts last season, his only drawback being the lack of a 50-yard-plus leg. Cornerback Justin Gilbert returned two kickoffs for scores last season and will add punt returns this fall.
The official capacity of Boone Pickens Stadium is 60,218, but there's never been a crowd larger than 58,895. Huh? Well, the reason is a matter of some debate, but the most plausible explanation seems to center around unfinished and/or unsold suites that are included in the capacity. . . . OSU has two open dates in the first six weeks, then closes with eight straight games. . . . Who doesn't remember the teams' last meeting? It was in a Sun Bowl game marked by snow, sleet and high winds on Christmas Day in 1987 between an OSU team with both Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders and WVU with freshman Major Harris. Harris completed only two of his seven passes, but he and A.B. Brown combined for 270 of WVU's 331 rushing yards. Thomas had 157 yards and four TDs. (Sanders was a freshman who ran for just 19 yards, but imagine he and Thomas were the deep men on kickoffs). Oh, and the OSU quarterback was Mike Gundy. WVU failed to tie the game on a 2-point conversion pass from Harris to Keith Winn that was stopped just short of the goal line with 73 seconds to play and lost 35-33.