On a windy day in Stillwater, OK, the disappointment continued for West Virginia University as the Mountaineers extended their losing streak to four in a 55-34 loss at Oklahoma State Saturday.
The offensive problems plaguing the Mountaineers over the past few weeks continued as the game began with a quick three-and-out for West Virginia. Quarterback Geno Smith opened up with two straight running plays, hoping to take advantage of a defense he has admitted does not take the Mountaineers' running game seriously.
However, the Cowboys were prepared, stopping a two designed quarterback runs before a failed Smith deep shot led to the West Virginia punt.
As for West Virginia's highly-publicized defensive issues, it did not take Oklahoma State's second-ranked offense to exploit issues deep within the unit. The Cowboys drove the ball 82 yards down the field in only four plays, ending with a 46-yard Josh Stewart run for the touchdown.
Another lackluster West Virginia offensive drive put the ball back into Oklahoma State's hands at their own 17-yard line. But unlike the previous drive, the Mountaineers' defense came to play.
West Virginia was able to hold an elusive Oklahoma State offense to bay on their second drive, placing the ball into the Mountaineers' hands at the WV 18-yard line.
The Mountaineers, however, failed to gain any traction yet again on offense, going for another quick three-and-out at the hands of the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State continued to rely on a strong running game in their subsequent drive, pushing the ball 68 yards, ending in a 21 touchdown pass to Stewart. The Cowboys' drive was highlighted yet again by the running prowess of backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, both of which carried the ball seven times for 28 yards on the nine play drive.
West Virginia caught a break on their next drive, as a 15-yard penalty against Oklahoma State helped the Mountaineers move the ball into Cowboys' territory for the first time in the afternoon.
After crossing midfield, the Mountaineers failed to gain positive yards on three consecutive plays. On third down and long, Smith attempted to rollout of the pocket, but was tackled behind the line. The senior's helmet came off on the play, forcing him to sit out as the Mountaineers attempted to convert on fourth-and-thirteen.
Head Coach Dana Holgorsen put backup quarterback Paul Millard in the game, who proceeded to hit Stedman Bailey across the middle for a 37-yard touchdown strike, closing the gap 14-7.
But the momentum of West Virginia's improbable touchdown would not last long. On the ensuing kickoff, Oklahoma State return man Justin Gilbert would take Corey Smith's kick 96 yards for the Cowboys touchdown. The quarter would end with Oklahoma State up 21-7.
The Mountaineers would come out strong on the following drive, moving the ball through the air and on the ground deep into Oklahoma State territory. A key fourth-down conversion by Tavon Austin at the 25-yard line extended the drive, helping the Mountaineers push the ball within five yards of the goal line.
But the Cowboys' defense would step up, holding the Mountaineers on four consecutive plays - three runs and an incomplete pass - to a stop at the one yard line.
The Cowboys would play conservatively on the following drive, running straight up the gut on three plays before a soaring punt by Oklahoma State placed West Virginia at their own 40-yard line.
From there, the Mountaineers would efficiently drive the ball 65-yards down the field in 10 plays, ending with a 17-yard dump out to Austin for the touchdown. While West Virginia ultimately scored, the offense once again found itself backed into a corner at times having to convert on fourth down and finding itself stuck on third-and-long twice, but resiliently converting each time.
The WVU touchdown would close the score 21-14.
But the good vibrations would not last long. In a four play drive, a porous Mountaineers' defense gave up two pass plays, both for over 15-yards, with the final 18-yard Blake Jackson reception going for six. The subsequent extra point extended Oklahoma State's lead 28-14.
The Mountaineers would not get the opportunity to answer, as a muffed kickoff by the Mountaineers fell right into Oklahoma State's hands. The Cowboys would take the ball back over that the West Virginia 14-yard line.
Following the special teams miscue, the West Virginia defense was able to hold Oklahoma State on three straight downs, forcing the Cowboys to attempt a 26-yard field goal. With the successful attempt, the Cowboys pulled further ahead, 31-14.
A short West Virginia drive, leading to a field goal, would close the gap to 14, 31-17, as the half came to a close.
A quick three-and-out for the Oklahoma State offense welcomed West Virginia fans back to the game with hope for the second half. A punt and two plays later, the explosive West Virginia offense many fans thought was lost had a resurgence.
The Mountaineers struck quickly, first with a 75 yard pass across the middle to Stedman Bailey and leading to a nine yard touchdown reception by Ryan Nehlen, closing the West Virginia deficit to seven, 31-24. The touchdown was Nehlen's first of the season and only third reception.
Momentum would continue to swing in the Mountaineers' favor with a quick defensive stop. However, that good fortune would be short-lived when a muffed Austin punt return put the ball back into the Cowboys' hands on the WVU 20-yard line.
A few plays later, Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf would hit receiver Charlie Moore for a five-yard touchdown; extending the lead once again, 38-24.
The Mountaineers would cut into the lead yet again on the following drive thanks to a Tyler Bitancurt field goal, but it would be Oklahoma State's following drive that would truly shift the momentum in West Virginia's favor.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, West Virginia's Terrance Garvin would pick off Chelf, returning the ball to the one. On the next play, Smith would take the ball in on a QB sneak, pulling the Mountaineers to within four, 38-34.
Even with three scoring drives to open up the half, the Mountaineers were unable to capitalize fully on a big momentum swing. But while giving up two big passing plays, the defense stepped up when necessary, holding the Cowboys to a field goal in the red zone.
After a stop for the Oklahoma State defense, the Cowboys regained control of the ball as the fourth quarter began. Starting from their own 20-yard line after another West Virginia special teams miscue, the Cowboys quickly drove down the field, ending in a 20-yard touchdown pass to Stewart. With just over 12 minutes left in the game, the Cowboys held a 48-34 lead.
It was much of the same on the Cowboys' next drive, with Oklahoma State driving 39 yards in three plays for a touchdown after West Virginia failed to convert on a fourth down on their previous drive. The drive ended with a Jeremy Smith 21-yard touchdown run to extend Oklahoma State's lead, 55-34.
The Mountaineers would fail to score again as the clock would wind down.
Final score - Oklahoma State 55, West Virginia 34.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys improve to 6-3 on the season while the West Virginia Mountaineers fall to 5-4. The Mountaineers return to Morgantown next Saturday night against the Oklahoma Sooners. Kickoff is at 7pm.