Spencer Sanders throws 2 TDs passes, No. 11 Oklahoma State tops WVU

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 11 Oklahoma State’s solid defense has become even more dominant of late.

The Cowboys have held consecutive opponents out of the end zone after piling up eight sacks and beating West Virginia 24-3 on Saturday.

Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1 Big 12, No. 11 CFP) pushed around West Virginia’s offensive line all game. Linebacker Devin Harper and defensive end Brock Martin had two sacks apiece and linebacker Malcomb Rodriguez made nine tackles to increase his conference-leading total to 87.

The eight sacks were the most for Oklahoma State in a game since 2004.

“We knew we were going to have to play physical,” Harper said. “The whole week we talked about being physical and making plays and doing our job.”

West Virginia (4-5, 2-4), which compiled 492 total yards in a win over Iowa State last week, was limited to 133 total yards Saturday, including 17 yards on the ground against the Big 12’s top rushing defense.

“That was a pretty impressive defensive performance by our guys,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “I’m kind of shocked, to be honest with you, that we could play that well defensively against them on the road as well as they’ve played offensively the last two weeks. Defensively, we just dominated the game. I don’t know what else to say.”

Oklahoma State limited Kansas to 143 yards in a 55-3 win a week ago. It’s the first time the Cowboys have held back-to-back opponents without touchdowns since the final game of the 1974 season and the 1975 opener.

Brock Martin said being dominant on defense is “our goal and that’s what we strive for. And I think we show up and show out every week.”

Spencer Sanders did enough to move Oklahoma State’s offense, throwing two touchdown passes to Tay Martin in the right corner of the end zone in single coverage.

A roughing-the-passer call against West Virginia’s Jared Bartlett on third down gave the Cowboys first-and-goal at the 6 in the second quarter. Sanders found the 6-foot-3 Martin in the end zone on the next play.

West Virginia’s Graeson Malashevich couldn’t corral a third-quarter punt and Oklahoma State’s Korie Black recovered at the Mountaineers’ 26. Four players later Sanders and Tay Martin connected for a 12-yard TD for a 17-3 lead.

Sanders finished 21 of 31 for 182 yards. He threw one interception.

Jaylen Warren closed out the scoring with a 13-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

West Virginia moved to the Oklahoma State 13 on its opening drive and settled for a field goal. The Mountaineers often were pinned deep at their end of the field and didn’t advance into Oklahoma State territory until their final drive of the game.

West Virginia’s Jarret Doege had little time to get rid of the ball in a collapsing pocket. Doege, who threw for a season-high 370 yards and three scores against Iowa State, went 15 of 22 for 109 yards with one interception Saturday.

“The beat us soundly today,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “Offensively, they just consumed us. Too many negative plays. They won it at the line of scrimmage. That was clear.”

Oklahoma State has won seven straight over the Mountaineers.

THE TAKEAWAY

Oklahoma State: The trek toward a potential berth in the Big 12 championship game continues for the Cowboys, who took over sole possession of second place after No. 14 Baylor lost at TCU. Oklahoma State has allowed league lows of 16 total touchdowns and 16 points per game.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers’ couldn’t take advantage of the loud home atmosphere on a day where the No. 9 jersey of College Hall of Fame quarterback Major Harris was retired. West Virginia saw a two-game winning streak stopped and will need two more wins over the final three games to become bowl eligible.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Oklahoma State could move into the top 10 of the AP poll for the second time this season.

TARGETING EJECTION

Oklahoma State safety Trey Rucker was ejected for targeting on a hit on West Virginia quarterback Garrett Greene late in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State: Hosts TCU next Saturday.

West Virginia: At Kansas State next Saturday.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.