Rushel Shell

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Back-and-forth game sees West Virginia on top of BYU at halftime

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Shootouts in college football are by definition fun, fast-paced and back-and-forth games involving just a little bit of everything.

If that’s the case, consider the first half of West Virginia and BYU’s matchup as more of a slow developing shootout. The Mountaineers went to the locker room with a 21-13 lead and the score probably could have been a little worse had there been any urgency to their offensive drives, which were methodical and efficient outside of a Skyler Howard interception.

Howard did have 180 yards passing through two quarters however and was dinking and dunking down the field against a normally tough BYU defense. Tailback Rushel Shell didn’t have a great half with just 2.1 yards per carry but did punch it into the end zone twice for West Virginia.

The third score of the day for the Mountaineers came on defense. Rasul Douglas found himself at the right place, at the right time, when Taysom Hill was pressured into a bad throw. Douglas snagged the ball out of the air and returned it 55 yards for an impressive pick-six to get the gold-clad crowd into the game.

The Cougars were able to move the ball in the first half even if the points didn’t quite follow, averaging 6.5 yards per play thanks in part to Jaamal Williams’ 128 yards rushing over two quarters.

BYU would have closed the gap between them and West Virginia even more had they not bungled the final few seconds of the half. Instead of getting out of bounds, receiver Mitchell Juergens decided to cut up field and the team needed a review to get one second left put back on the clock in order to kick a field goal.

This is a big game for West Virginia to hold on to as they’re one of just two undefeated Big 12 teams left heading into Saturday’s slate of games and one of the few bright spots for the league so far this season. As for BYU, the Cougars would love to pull of an upset on the East Coast (the game is at FedEx Field outside Washington, D.C.) and show Big 12 leaders that they can be very competitive in the conference should they ultimately decide to expand.

Either way, should make for a fun second half between the two.

No. 21 Oklahoma State handling West Virginia at the half

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No. 21 Oklahoma State has thoroughly flattened West Virginia and its striped blue-and-gold crowd, leading the Mountaineers 17-2 at the break.

The Cowboys’ lead has been aided significantly by West Virginia miscues, namely a Skyler Howard fumble that Emmanuel Ogbah recovered for a touchdown at the 4:45 mark of the first quarter. West Virginia’s next two each ended in fumbles as well, both by running back Rushel Shell. The latter fumble ended a 12-play, 69-yard drive inside the Oklahoma State red zone.

Oklahoma State got a one-yard Rennie Childs run less than a minute into the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead, then spotted the Mountaineers two points when Mason Rudolph was sacked inside his own end zone.

Ben Grogan knocked in a 21-yard field goal with 3:43 to go in the second quarter to cap the scoring.

Rudolph has completed 12-of-20 passes for 125 yards with an interception, carrying an offense that has mustered only 43 rushing yards on 20 tries.

Howard struggled mightily throughout the half, hitting only 4-of-11 throws for 31 yards. West Virginia rushed 26 times for 116 yards as a team.

The Mountaineers will receive to open the second half.

Sooners’ Flag Day celebration includes double-digit lead on WVU

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The controversial officiating crew from the Texas-Oklahoma State game last weekend?  They’re in Norman this weekend, and let’s just say they’re making their presence felt yet again.

As far as the scoreboard particulars, Oklahoma leads West Virginia 24-7 at the half of a pivotal Big 12 conference matchup.  The Sooners put up a pair of touchdowns, both on Baker Mayfield touchdown passes, sandwiched around a Rushel Shell touchdown run for the Mountaineers, then tacked on a late field goal and a Joe Mixon 35-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes remaining to further extend the lead.

Perhaps most impressive about OU’s first-half performance?  WVU came into the game leading the nation by giving up just 23 points total in its first three games, although that came against Georgia Southern, Liberty and Maryland.  Just as impressive as OU’s offense?  OU’s defense allowed just 157 first-half yards to a WVU offense that came in 11th in the country averaging 543.3 yards per game.

The story for much of the game, though, was the yellow laundry littering the field.

Through the first two quarters, OU was flagged seven times for a whopping 85 yards.  WVU, not wanting to be left out of the festivities, was on the receiving end of six penalties for 51 yards, and that’s even with bruising defensive back Karl Joseph seemingly getting away with a first-quarter hit that certainly looked to be in the neighborhood of targeting — especially for a flag-happy crew.  One series, however, perfectly encapsulated this early-October Flag Day.

The Mountaineers’ lone touchdown of the half early in the second quarter was the culmination of an 86-yard drive that, on paper, looked impressive.  However, 50 of those yards came courtesy of the Sooners’ defense, with three of those being 15-yard personal-foul penalties.

Individually, Mayfield is trending toward a second consecutive 400-yard passing game as he has put up 212 yards in the air through the first two quarters.

2015 could be the year of the running back in college football


College football has been a game for quarterbacks over the last decade or so, but the 2015 college football season could be a big one for the running backs. The young running backs that have taken the big stage during the 2014 season have shown glimpses of what could be one of the finest seasons for fans of the running game in quite some time.

Just look at some of the names coming back to line up in the back field with authority in 2015.

Now a couple of years removed from the SEC’s best quarterback class in some time, the SEC should be heavy on the run in 2015. The SEC’s leading rusher returning in 2015 will be Georgia’s Nick Chubb for his sophomore season, and LSU freshman Leonard Fournette could also be worthy of striking his Heisman pose. Chubb rushed for 1,547 yards and an SEC-leading 14 touchdowns this season, and most of that came while backing up Todd Gurley until he went down to injury. Fournette also rushed for over 1,000 yards, including 143 yards in a bowl game loss against Notre Dame. If you need more running power from the SEC, look no further than Arkansas with sophomore Alex Collins. Collins is coming off a 1,100-yard season with 12 touchdowns and should be a big piece of the offense for Bret Bielema in 2015. If there is one thing Bielema knows how to do, it is run the football. With Collins on the field, Arkansas will do just that. Alabama will look for a big year from  too. Henry was 10 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season but he did rush for 11 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

Up north, the Big Ten should continue to see plenty of production on the ground. In 2014 the Big Ten running game was the story with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon earning a nod as Heisman finalist and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah a household name. But the Big Ten also saw great seasons from Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford. The Big Ten will lose all of these players to the draft, but there are some talented running backs ready to pick up the steam. Right now there is no hotter name among young running backs than Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, who turned in a postseason run worthy of Mr. January consideration. Wisconsin has Corey Clement ready to be the next running back in line in Madison. Two other sophomores to keep an eye on in the Big Ten will be Michigan’s Derrick Green, who could have a big impact if he bounces back healthy in 2015, and Penn State’s Akeel Lynch if the Nittany Lions firm up on offensive line.

Move just west of Penn State and you may find the best running back in the state with Pittsburgh’s James Conner. The sophomore led the ACC in rushing with 1,765 yards and his 26 touchdowns were twice more than the ACC’s next leading rushing touchdown leader, Boston College’s Jon Hilliman (a freshman). Florida State’s Dalvin Cook could have a huge role in 2015 as well.

Out west it is easy to get caught up in the quarterback action in the Pac-12. This year was certainly the case with players like Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, but next year could see some big years from running backs as well. Paul Perkins of UCLA led the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,575 yards this season and will be back in 2015. So will Arizona’s Nick Wilson, the conference’s fourth-leading rusher as a freshman, and Oregon’s Royce Freeman. Freeman did not have a great championship game against Ohio State, but he should take on a heavy load without Mariota leading the offense in 2015.

The pass-happy Big 12 is not without some impact running backs in 2015 either. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine led the Big 12 with 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman in 2014. Baylor’s Shock Linwood was second in the Big 12  as a sophomore with 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns. West Virginia’s Rushel Shell is also capable of doing some major damage if the Mountaineers have more faith in him.

Quarterbacks will likely remain the face of many programs, but the 2015 season could be a huge season for the running backs.