Let's just cut to the chase this week. Since the series began in 1928, the West Virginia University Mountaineers have beaten the Oklahoma State University Cowboys every single time except that lucky 2-point win in the Sun Bowl.
The inaugural game was played exactly 84 years to the day before this Saturday's matchup on a chilly afternoon in Morgantown. Head coach Ira Errett Rodgers led the 1928 squad to a sterling 8-2 record, after stumbling out of the gate in a stunning 7-0 home loss to Davis & Elkins, the Mountaineers rattled off 7 straight wins highlighted by a 9-6 win at Pitt before routing the Cowpoke, 32-6, on the strength of 159 yards on 21 carries by WVU running back Clarence Keefer. The hapless orange-clad visitors had no answer for the powerful West Virginia ground game as the Mounties scored in every quarter en route to the blowout.
The return game the following year in Stillwater featured a different story, but the same result. Rodgers' WVU team that year wasn't nearly as strong, finishing with a disappointing 4-3-3 tally. The visiting Mountaineers mounted a 9-0 lead through 3 quarters, and a Cowboy rally in the fourth quarter fell short, leaving the final score at 9-6, good guys. The Cowboys wouldn't even sniff a win over the Mountaineers for 58 years until the Sun Bowl on Christmas Day, 1987.
Some of you may remember that the Sun Bowl that year failed to live up to its name, having been played in cold, snowy conditions. Me? I was 6, and probably playing with Transformers somewhere having not grasped the magnitude of the situation at that point in my life. Besides, in the mid-80's we could pretty much guarantee that the Mountaineers weren't winning any bowl games.
The game was actually a good one, and the Mountaineers and freshman quarterbackled the 11th ranked Cowboys at the half, 24-14. A rough second half saw Oklahoma State take the lead on the strength of 2 Thurman Thomas touchdowns and a touchdown pass from quarterback current Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy . A WVU touchdown with 1:13 remaining pulled the Mounties to within 2, but the conversion attempt was stopped short of the goal line and the Pokes held on for the win.
The game was chock full of highlights, and probably one of the most exciting contests of the 1987 bowl season. A young Major Harris rushed 24 times for 103 yards and WVU running back A.B. Brown added 167 yards on 32 carries, but it was Thurman Thomas's 157 yards and 4 touchdowns on 33 carries that carried the day. You can actually watch the whole game on YouTube, but nobody has time for that, so let's cut to those highlights, shall we?
Things are a bit different this year, though. There are now 0 hall of fame running backs on Oklahoma State's roster this year - both Thurman Thomas and backup Barry Sanders have long since retired. Quarterback Mike Gundy is now a man. He's over 40. And he probably can't throw a ball more than 20 yards at that age. Given that lack of offensive firepower, I just don't see how Okie Lite is going to keep up wit the high-flying (okay, potentially high-flying) WVU offense. Even the pups like Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden from last year's Big 12 title team, who needed overtime to win their bowl game, have graduated and moved on. Dana Holgorsen has moved on to bigger and better things. WVU is hungry for revenge, and with Oklahoma State's best offensive players from that 1987 team all retired, they have no prayer of competing with the Mountaineers. WVU has historically dominated the series, though, apart from that lucky win, and they'll get back to their winning ways Saturday. The Mounties will win big, mark it down.