West Virginia’s first conference opponent is one capable of ripping off explosive plays on offense, but the Mountaineers had their fair share of big plays in their season opener.
Against Eastern Kentucky, WVU rattled off 18 “chunk” plays, defined as runs of 10 yards or more or receptions of 15 yards or more. Thirteen of those plays came in the first half, when the majority of West Virginia’s starters — including redshirt junior quarterback Jarret Doege — were in the lineup on offense.
Half of those chunk plays — six passes and three rushes — went for 20 yards or more.
Offensive coordinator Gerad Parker said those big gain plays are a sign of an offense that’s clicking, and he thinks WVU will need to produce chunk plays in bulk to upset No. 15 Oklahoma State on the road.
“We’ve gotta win the explosive play battle. It’s probably one of the No. 1 precursors to looking at success, minus, of course, turnovers are always the leading one,” Parker said. “I think if we’re explosive and at a high level on any Saturday, and take care of the football, we’re gonna have a really good chance of feeling good about where we’re at offensively.”
West Virginia has lost five in a row to Oklahoma State, including a 20-13 defeat last season at Milan Puskar Stadium.
WVU won the explosive play battle in that game, completing seven plays of 20 yards or more while holding the Cowboys to just one such play. The Mountaineers also contained running back Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s leading rusher in 2019, holding him to 106 rush yards and 194 all-purpose yards.
Three of West Virginia’s plays of 20 yards or more came on the same drive and led to the only WVU touchdown of that game — a 34-yard connection between Doege and former Mountaineer wide receiver George Campbell.
Doege said the offense will try to take advantage of more big play opportunities against the Cowboys.
“When they go man or they try to zero you, you gotta make them pay for it,” Doege said. “Last year, they did that to us a couple times. I think we made them pay once to George, and then a lot of the times, they got us. You gotta get them more than they get you.”
Though the Mountaineers won in the big play department, they faltered in the red zone. WVU scored just six points from three red zone trips against OSU last season, and came up empty in the red zone during its final offensive possession. Oklahoma State went 4-4 in the red zone en route to victory.
The Mountaineers and Cowboys clash Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.