Life, for a quarterback, is much easier when his defense makes life hard on his counterpart.
That was the case in Morgantown on Saturday with Spencer Sanders and Jarrett Doege.
The former had a nice showing in his team’s eighth win, completing 68 percent of his passes and throwing two touchdowns to one pick. But more telling than his box score numbers was the ability for OSU’s offense to coast to a win in the fourth quarter, despite scoring only 24 points. Not many OSU passers benefit from those circumstances.
The latter? He did well just to stay on his feet.
The six Cowboys to record sacks on Saturday were led by Devin Harper and Brock Martin, who logged a pair each.
Doege was sacked a career-high eight times and was constantly running for his life, which resulted in the senior QB posting his worst passer rating all year (100.7). The Big 12’s leading passer coming in threw for just 109 yards, no scores and his own interception.
After the game, Mike Gundy was impressed with his team’s ability to get after the veteran QB.
“Their pass rush, (Jarret) Doege, I think that’s how you pronounce his name, the quarterback had been playing good,” said Gundy. “I don’t know what he threw for last week, 357 yards or something like that, 327. I expected our defense to play good, but I didn’t expect that. It surprised me, but they dominated the game and never, you know, other than the first drive, West Virginia hit a few plays, and they could never really get off the ground again because of the way our defense played.”
To his point, West Virginia was fresh off of a 38-31 win over the same Iowa State team that handed Gundy’s its only loss of the season. But Doege actually threw for 370 yards and three scores in that upset over the Cyclones while WVU totaled 492 yards of offense.
The eight total QB takedowns was the most under Mike Gundy and tied for second-most ever at OSU. The Cowboys had eight total against Iowa State in 2004 and nine against Baylor in 1998.
A week earlier, the Mountaineers amassed 487 yards against TCU. The Cowboys held them to 133, good for the lowest by an OSU defense since that historic stomping of Savannah State in 2012.
“I’m surprised that we could push them around like we did,” said Gundy. “It would be unfair for me to say anything other than that, but we did. Eight sacks and you know, 50, 60, 70-something yards rushing on whatever carries. Well, no actually, West Virginia had 17 yards rushing. Is that correct? So, you’re at negative half a yard or whatever, I don’t know. I’ve never had to add that direction. So, I’m surprised.”
This isn’t just a team that stops you on third down. OSU gets after your QB. It turns you over. It makes life for an offense miserably in myriad ways.
“They got our offensive line in some one-on-one matchups and they just consumed us with TFLs, sacks, and I’m not sure we ever had a game with that many,” said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown. “Too many negative plays and they won the line of scrimmage; that was clear.”
That big sack number is no fluke, it’s the result of a well-oiled machine. OSU’s salty and seasoned secondary compliments its deep and talented front seven as well as any group during Gundy’s tenure.
Most legit Gundy defenses have had their calling cards. His 2013 defense was know for its efficiency. The 2011 group created tons of turnovers. And over the last couple of years, this one has made its name on third downs. But the sign of a truly great defense is the ability to create havoc — or shut you down — in many different ways. This year’s unit is no one-trick pony. It’s the type of squad that can not only facilitate, but might be the driving force of, a Big 12 title run.
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