Why Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy trusted fans on fourth down vs. West Virginia

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy considered his options with just 1 yard to gain.

The Cowboys were locked in a tie game with less than 5 minutes left in the second quarter. It was fourth down on West Virginia’s 7.

A big moment early that Gundy often elects to kick a field goal.

But then he heard the crowd.

“They kept saying to go for it,” Gundy said. “I listened. I just said, ‘I guess they’re right. We’ll go for it.’”

It did not work out.

After a timeout, running back Deondre Jackson was stopped for no gain. OSU came away without points.

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Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy looks down as he stands on the sideline during a college football game between Oklahoma State and West Virginia at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. West Virginia won 24-19.
Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy looks down as he stands on the sideline during a college football game between Oklahoma State and West Virginia at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. West Virginia won 24-19.

On a day the Cowboys ended their up-and-down regular season with a disappointing 24-19 loss to West Virginia, an early fourth-down play call stood out for various reasons.

Typically, Gundy elects to play things safe. On a rainy day, he opted to make a change, apparently listening to the fans.

And this comes a week after questions followed his fourth-down decision making in a stinging Bedlam loss.

“I’m usually pretty tuned into that,” Gundy said. “To be fair, I was teetering one way or the other.”

Gundy said he considered the inconsistent play of the offensive line. He considered true freshman quarterback Garret Rangel being in the game. He considered the wet weather conditions.

“It’s a bad combination for going fourth-and-2, whatever it was,” Gundy said. “But I thought, ‘Well, maybe they want to go for it. Let’s go for it.’

“The combination of both of that, honestly, that’s why I said, ‘All right, let’s roll.’”

OSU finished the day 0 for 3 on fourth down, failing to convert twice in the fourth quarter.

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Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon (0) leaps over West Virginia defensive back Caleb Coleman (16) during a 24-19 loss Saturday.
Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon (0) leaps over West Virginia defensive back Caleb Coleman (16) during a 24-19 loss Saturday.

Gordon steps up in big way

OSU’s running back depth was already thin entering the game with starter Dominic Richardson still sidelined due to injury.

It only got worse.

Backup Jaden Nixon also went down with an undisclosed injury and missed the second half.

Enter Ollie Gordon.

The 6-foot-1, 211-pound freshman from Euless Trinity (Texas) High exploded in the second half, finishing with a career day and igniting a dormant run game.

He rushed for 136 yards on 17 carries, an average of 8 yards per carry. He scored on a 24-yard run. He had a 10-yard reception.

“He’s been good throughout (the year), solid,” OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said. “It’s just time when a young guy comes around. Anytime you play young guys and they’re freshmen — especially true freshmen — different things happen. You shake your head like, ‘What in the world just happened?’

“He’s had a few of those moments during the course of the season and it was good to see him come out and play like we did.”

Gordon entered the game with just 127 rushing yards on the season. His career-best was 65 yards in a Week 3 rout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

But he had shown flashes of an ability to make an electric play throughout the year.

It finally all came together.

“He got a chance to roll into it pretty good,” Gundy said. “Hopefully, it’s a build up.”

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Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders, who didn't play Saturday, talks with receiver Brennan Presley (80).
Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders, who didn't play Saturday, talks with receiver Brennan Presley (80).

WRs ditch gloves in second half

With the rainfall picking up throughout the day, the game was most impacted in the second half.

So, OSU’s receivers ditched their usual gloves and opted to go with bare hands to catch the football.

“With the amount of downpour that was coming down, it’s just not smart to wear gloves, because they’re gonna be soaked,” OSU receiver Brennan Presley said. “It didn’t play a big role.

“Take the gloves off and go back to work.”

Rangel — in his second-career start — completed just 3 of 15 passes in the second half. Super-senior Braydon Johnson was unable to catch a deep pass that was well thrown.

But also Presley let a pass near the goal-line slip through his hands in the second quarter. Presley had gloves on then.

Also, West Virginia completed just 2 of 7 passes in the second half.

But ditching the gloves was tactical.

Presley said players can wipe off the gloves but they get slick again before the play starts. And if gloves touch the ground, a player must consider drying them off again.

Gundy said the weather did not factor into the opening half. But the rain picked up in the second half, causing some issues.

On the opposite side of the ball, linebacker Mason Cobb said he prefers the dreary conditions.

“That’s my favorite,” Cobb said. “I’m not really sunny, warm day. I want it to be dark, rainy, nasty. I fell in love with football that way.

“That’s the best weather for me.”

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Taylor’s interception impresses again

OSU star safety Jason Taylor II had no problems catching the football, though.

And it’s because all he does is make plays.

Taylor grabbed his sixth interception of the season, moving him into a possible tie for the national lead midway through Saturday. It was Taylor’s third straight game with an interception.

He intercepted an overthrow by West Virginia’s Garrett Greene with 8:08 remaining in the first half, diving low as the ball went toward the turf, snagging it with two hands just before it hit the ground.

“When he caught it, it stuck to his hand,” Cobb said “I was like, ‘No way.’ Everyone’s just trying to catch body, body, no hands.

“That dude’s for real. He’s the real deal.”

Taylor, a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, also had four tackles in possibly the last home game of his career.

The redshirt senior is eligible to return next season but has not made a decision.

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Injury update

The Cowboys were again decimated by injuries both before and during the game.

Quarterback Spencer Sanders did not play for the second time in four weeks.

A secondary that was short safety Thomas Harper lost cornerback Korie Black and safety Kendal Daniels to injuries.

Defensive linemen Tyler Lacy and Trace Ford also missed the game. So did offensive lineman Hunter Woodard.

Though, the Cowboys did get offensive lineman Jason Brooks Jr. back in the second half. He missed Bedlam with an illness.

Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at junruh@oklahoman.com or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

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This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OSU vs. WVU football: Mike Gundy listened to fans on fourth-down call