Oklahoma State 55, West Virginia 34
Today’s loss extends West Virginia’s losing streak to four games - the most since 2001 when the Mountaineers dropped four straight against Maryland, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Miami.
“We can't make very, very, very simple mistakes," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "We made junior high mistakes. When you make junior high mistakes, you're not going to win very many games."
The Cowboys took advantage of several special teams miscues from the Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4) to go along with a struggling pass defense that once again surrendered large chunks of yardage.
Clint Chelf, in his first career start, completed 22-of-31 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns – two of those going to Josh Stewart, who finished the game with a career-high 172 yards receiving in addition to his 46-yard touchdown run.
Oklahoma State’s 55 points were the sixth straight time that the Mountaineers have allowed more than 39 points in a Big 12 game this season, and the third time they have given up more than 50 points in a game this year.
Oklahoma State (6-3, 4-2) chose to defer after winning the coin toss, and after stuffing West Virginia on its opening possession, the Cowboys took the ball at their own 22 and used a pair of Joseph Randle runs to set up a perfectly executed reverse that Stewart was able to turn into a 46-yard touchdown run. He got the ball on the far side of the field and followed a convoy of blockers into the end zone untouched. Stewart getting into the end zone proved to be a recurring occurrence for the Mountaineer defense.
Two possessions after Stewart’s run, the Cowboys extended their lead to 14-0 when Chelf fired a 21-yard touchdown pass to Stewart, cleaning up a nine-play, 68-yard scoring drive.
From there, West Virginia was forced to play catch up all afternoon long.
Trailing 14-0, backup quarterback Paul Millard came into the game to throw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey on fourth-and-13 play after Geno Smith was required to go to the sidelines after he was sacked by Tyler Johnson for a five-yard loss and his helmet came off on the play.
But it quickly became 21-7, Cowboys, when Justin Gilbert took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Gilbert’s return was an Oklahoma State record fifth for a score of his career. More sloppy special teams play from the Mountaineers resulted in additional points for the Cowboys late in the second quarter when Quinn Sharp’s kickoff struck Andrew Buie in the helmet and Nico Ornelas was able to recover the ball at the 13, resulting in Sharp’s 26-yard field goal to make the score 31-14.
In between, West Virginia got a 17-yard TD reception by Austin on a third-and-10 swing pass to the far side of the field. However, Oklahoma State once again struck back quickly, the Cowboys benefiting from great field position on the ensuing kickoff to put Chelf in position to fire a 48-yard touchdown pass to tight end Blake Jackson.
The Mountaineers concluded first half scoring when a pair of dead ball penalties called on Oklahoma State got West Virginia close enough for Tyler Bitancurt to convert a 41-yard field goal.
In the second half, West Virginia continued to shoot itself in the foot. The Mountaineers forced Oklahoma State to punt on its opening possession and they went right back to the air from their own 12 when Smith hooked up with Bailey for a 75-yard completion and run to the Cowboy 13. Two plays later, Smith threaded the needle with a perfectly thrown touchdown strike to Ryan Nehlen in the back of the end zone. It was Nehlen's first TD of the season, and it pulled the Mountaineers to within a touchdown, 31-24.
Unfortunately that manageable deficit was short-lived, too. After the Mountaineer defense forced a three and out, Austin was not able to get out of the way of Sharp’s towering punt that bounced backwards toward the middle of the field and struck him at the WVU 12. A scrum followed and the loose ball ended up in Teddy Johnson's arms. Two plays after Johnson’s recovery, the Cowboys were back in the end zone when Chelf flipped a 5-yard TD pass to Charlie Moore, making it 38-24.
"The punt return was a huge mistake, and that’s something that you should learn how to do in junior high," said Holgorsen. "Making mistakes at home in the Big 12 is going to hurt you enough, but making mistakes on the road in the Big 12 is worse. It’s tough enough to win Big 12 games at home, so we have to learn to not make mistakes on the road.”
West Virginia answered with a Bitancurt 37-yard field goal, and the Mountaineers had a great chance for more points when they got to the Cowboy 10. However, offensive lineman Quinton Spain was called for holding on Austin’s run to the 1, placing the ball back to the 17, and then on the next play Buie ran into Smith on a draw handoff that lost three more yards. On third down, Smith’s pass intended to Bailey in the end zone fell incomplete.
The Mountaineers were able to get more points on Oklahoma State’s next possession when Moore couldn’t hang on to Chelf’s pass to the far side of the field, the ball bouncing high up into the air, and Terence Garvin intercepting the ball at the 43 and returning it 42 yards to the 1. Smith sneaked in on the next play to reduce Oklahoma State’s lead to 38-34.
But from there, Oklahoma State took control of the game when it was able to get a 32-yard field goal from Sharp with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter. Two Chelf-to-Stewart passes totaling 44 yards got the Cowboys into scoring position.
After West Virginia couldn’t move the sticks on a third-and-five play at the 49 when Smith’s fade pass to Austin was broken up by Daytawion Lowe at the OSU 20, the Cowboys got the ball back at their own 20 and marched 80 yards for more points.
Chelf went back to the air, completing five passes on the drive with the final completion being a 20-yard scoring toss to Stewart when he did a tight-rope along the far sideline to reach the end zone. Big 12 replay officials confirmed the touchdown, giving Oklahoma State a 48-34 lead.
The Mountaineers then turned the ball over on downs at their own 39, helping the Cowboys eclipse the 50-point barrier for the third time this season. Jeremy Smith became the fifth different Oklahoma State player to hit pay dirt, taking a draw handoff 21 yards into the end zone with 9:50 remaining in the game.
"We can’t find a way to win - we’re finding ways to lose," said Geno Smith. "Somehow, someway we have to bounce back. We have three weeks left, and we have to pick ourselves up and get up and get back to work.”
Smith finished the game completing 36-of-54 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns for the Mountaineers, while Stedman Bailey had another terrific game by catching 14 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown for the Mountaineers.
Bailey now shows 75 catches for 1,055 yards and 16 touchdowns with three regular season games remaining.
“We went in the locker room, and I told them that we played a good team," said Holgorsen. "We came into the game knowing that it would be tough to stop the No. 1 offense in the nation. They knew they made plenty of mistakes so they took the loss pretty hard. We have to move on to next week and face another tough opponent.”
West Virginia returns to Milan Puskar Stadium to face Oklahoma next Saturday night. Oklahoma plays host to Texas Tech.
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