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November 17, 2012

WVU loses heartbreaker 50-49

Despite trading leads throughout much of the fourth quarter, the West Virginia Mountaineers were unable to break their losing streak Saturday night in Morgantown against 12th-ranked Oklahoma.

Senior Tavon Austin accounted for 542 all-purpose yards, and Stedman Bailey caught four touchdown passes, but the Sooners in the end were too much for the Mountaineers, pulling off a close 50-49 victory.

The game got underway for the West Virginia defense with little to no deviation from the season's norm. After stopping a potent Sooner offense on first and second down to start the game, the defense game up a crucial first down conversion on third-and-15 as Landry Jones hit Kenny Stills for the gain.

The Sooners would capitalize on the momentum, once again capitalizing on a third-and-long situation to move their offense into the red zone. From here it would take Oklahoma only a few plays before Jones would capitalize, throwing a four yard touchdown strike to fullback Trey Millard, putting the Sooners up early 7-0.

Looking for a spark after the recent let-downs, the West Virginia offense appeared to add a new wrinkle into its game plan on the opening drive, lining up Tavon Austin in the backfield on the first four plays.

The strategy, however, would not fully pay off as an errant Geno Smith pass was picked off by Aaron Colvin and returned to Sooners' 33-yard line.

A West Virginia defensive surge was able to withstand the Sooners' barrage on the proceeding drive, holding Oklahoma to a 32-yard field goal after the team's first third-down stop of the night. The kick extended the Sooners' lead, 10-0.

The Mountaineer offense would not stay down for long. Relying heavily on the new wrinkle Austin provides from the backfield, the Mountaineers drove the ball 78 yards to the two-yard line. However, a controversial call on a Stedman Bailey third down reception would leave the Mountaineers just short of a first down. Coach Dana Holgorsen would take the points from the drive, sending out Tyler Bitancurt to kick a 19-yard field goal making the score 10-3.

After an impressive defensive stop for the Mountaineers, shutting down both the Oklahoma passing and rushing game, the offense took the ball over at their own 14-yard line.

On the ensuing drive, the Mountaineers again would fail to gain any momentum from the offense. A failed run up the gut for Andrew Buie and two incomplete passes to Bailey resulted in a West Virginia punt from deep in their own territory,

The Sooners would regain possession at their own 46-yard line, but not for long. On the first play of the drive, Will Clarke forced a fumble from Oklahoma running back Damien Williams. Cecil Level would recover the strip, placing the ball back into West Virginia's hands in good field position.

With a little help from a controversial pass interference call, the Mountaineers drove the ball 48-yards down the field, ending with a one-yard Buie touchdown run one fourth-and-goal. The score would tie the game at 10.

It would not take long, however, for the Sooners to break the stalemate. On the second play of the drive Jones found receiver Jalen Saunders within West Virginia zone coverage for a 76-yard touchdown reception, putting the Sooners back on top, 17-10.

A three-and-out for the West Virginia offense gave Oklahoma another shot to expand on its momentum against the Mountaineers' defense. The Sooners would hit the Mountaineers again early with big gains, going 76 yards in eight plays, ending with an eight yard touchdown reception from Stills.

Down 24-10, the Mountaineers would regain possession with just over five minutes left in the half. From here, West Virginia would attempt to regain the quick-strike mentality shown earlier in the season.

91-yards and six plays later, the Mountaineers would find the end zone with a 33-yard strike to Bailey. The offense, which has been down at times, completed two plays for over 30-yards on the successful drive to close the score at 24-17.

It would not take Oklahoma long to attack the West Virginia defense yet again - this time on the ground. A 46-yard Damien Williams touchdown run extended the Sooners' lead, 31-17.

The Oklahoma offense would not be off the field for long. A Smith pass was tipped and picked off by Javon Harris on the second play of West Virginia's drive, putting the ball back in the Sooners' hands in their own territory.
But the Mountaineers would show another flash of brilliance, shutting down the Oklahoma attack in their red zone. The Sooners would attempt a 37-yard field goal, but Michael Hunnicutt would shank the attempt before the half expired.

The Mountaineers would receive the ball to begin the second half and not waste much time in trying to close the gap. On the second play of the drive, Smith handed the ball off to Austin, who would find the edge and take it 75-yards for the score. With the crowd back into the game, the Mountaineers closed to within a touchdown of the 12th-ranked Sooners.

However, the Sooners would quickly take the air out of the fan's sails on the ensuing drive. A 52-yard reception on second down by Sterling Shepherd put Oklahoma deep into West Virginia territory. A few plays later, Jones would hit his favorite target Stills for an 11-yard touchdown pass to go up 38-24.

West Virginia's offense continued to focus squarely at the run game on the ensuing drive. Of the 17 plays, the Mountaineers ran the ball 11 times, highlighted by the performances of Austin and Buie.

The offense continued to rely on the run deep in the trenches, handing the ball off to Austin who made a video game-esque cut on a four yard touchdown run. A missed Bitancurt PAT put the score at 38-30, Oklahoma.

A defensive stop by the Mountaineers on the ensuing drive forced Oklahoma to punt for only the second time in the game.

The Mountaineers' offense would take then ball back over deep in their own territory, where it would not stay for long. In continuing his monster day, Austin racked off another big run, this time for 56-yards, pushing West Virginia into the red zone.

The drive would stop there, however, as the Mountaineers found themselves unable to convert a Buie run on fourth-and-short.

Taking the ball back over on their own 25-yard line, the Sooners would find more success against a porous West Virginia secondary early. But in the end, a deep pass thrown by Jones found its way into the hands of Brodrick Jenkins, his first of the season, at the three-yard line.

With 97-yards of turf in front of them, the Mountaineers would be undaunted, driving the distance in five plays for the touchdown. West Virginia did it through the air on the series, targeting Bailey on all three of the pass attempts, including a four-yard touchdown. The Mountaineers failed to convert a potential game-tying two point attempt, leaving the score at 38-36.

West Virginia's defense would hold firm on the following drive, forcing an Oklahoma punt to the Mountaineers' 15-yard line.

From there, the Mountaineers would undergo an odd series of events. A 54-yard Austin run appeared for a second to be coming back due to a holding penalty. In reality though, the penalties targeted Oklahoma. Two personal fouls (hands to the face and sideline interference) pushed the Mountaineers to the Oklahoma eight.

On the following play, Smith hit Bailey in the corner of the end zone to put West Virginia in the lead, 43-38.

It only took the Sooners two minutes, however, to retake the lead. Oklahoma's offense drove 79-yards in seven plays, ending with a Stills touchdown reception. A two point conversion attempt failed, putting the Sooners only up one, 44-43, with 4:10 left.

The Mountaineers were uninterested, however, in running the clock. A 47-yard Austin run helped set up the West Virginia offense in Oklahoma territory. Two plays later, Smith would target Bailey yet again with a 40-yard touchdown pass. A failed two point conversion attempt put the score at 49-44.

With a little under three minutes left in the game, the Sooners received the Mountaineers' kickoff, returning it 46-yards. The good field position put Oklahoma in solid footing, helping push the offensive drive deep into the red zone.
On fourth-and-goal, Jones would find Stills yet again for the Oklahoma touchdown. Another failed two-point conversion put the Sooners up 50-49.

West Virginia would receive with a mere 24 seconds left. The Mountaineers would take a few shots downfield, but ultimately to no avail. The Mountaineers were unable to get in field goal range before time expired, and a last-ditch effort was ultimately thwarted.

Final score: Oklahoma 50, West Virginia 49.

The Mountaineers saw an unbelievable performance from Tavon Austin. The senior touched the ball in almost every way conceivable putting up 542 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.

Austin also broke a number of long-standing records, both in school and conference history. The senior's 344 rushing yards broke Kay Jay Harris' previous single-game yardage record of 337 yards against East Carolina in 2004. Austin also set the Big 12 Conference and WVU record for single game all-purpose yardage.

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