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Headset check: OSU vs. West Virginia

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STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Shane Illingworth #16 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys throws against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first quarter on September 26, 2020 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Pool Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) EDITORIAL USE ONLY *** Local Caption *** Shane Illingworth;Dante Stills

Oklahoma State defeated West Virginia 27-13 on Saturday afternoon in Stillwater. Two coaching elements — a personnel decision and a game plan approach — contributed to the Cowboy victory.

The decision to start Shane Illingworth over Spencer Sanders

The first decision that the OSU coaching staff had to make was before the game. Starting quarterback Spencer Sanders, who sustained a right foot injury last week against Tulsa, was listed as questionable to play against the Mountaineers.

Sanders had been in a walking boot throughout the week but was able to go through a light pre-game warmup. Though the true health of Sanders was heavily veiled, he appeared to have at least a slim chance of playing.

Before kickoff, a game-time decision was made to rest Sanders in favor of freshman QB Shane Illingworth, who finished OSU’s last game against Tulsa.

By opting for Illingworth, who performed admirably in his debut last week, the OSU coaching staff chose to favor the long-term health of the team over a single game.

Staying conservative on offense

The other decision made by OSU coaches was about strategy. Oklahoma State was very conservative on fourth down.

One such situation came early in the game. After OSU’s first drive stalled on its own 42-yard line, the Cowboys were faced with a fourth-3.

Though the decision was met with scattered boos from rowdy fans, Cowboy punter Tom Hutton trotted onto the field without hesitation and booted the first of six punts that he would attempt on Saturday. The Cowboys were obviously content with playing a game based around field position.

The conservative play calling paid off for the coaching staff. By punting consistently, the Cowboys put their defense in good position all afternoon. OSU stifled the Mountaineers offense — holding a WVU team that scored 56 points in their season opener to just 13 points.

sports.ed@ocolly.com