MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Not many people saw this one coming, especially after the way West Virginia slogged through the rain in Baltimore last weekend.
But a swarming Mountaineer defense kept after Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh all afternoon, and the offense did just enough to help pull off a 30-21 upset victory over the 11th-ranked Cowboys this afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.
It was the first time since beating 11th-ranked Texas on the road last year that West Virginia has defeated a top 15-ranked team, and it was easily WVU’s biggest win at home since it knocked off eighth-ranked Pitt in the 2009 Backyard Brawl.
"Our defense played well," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "They created turnovers and stuck people. They held a team to 21 points that hasn't been held to that for quite some time."
Today, a weaving-through-traffic Ishmael Banks
returned a Walsh pass 58 yards for a touchdown to get things going for WVU, and Clint Trickett
, making his first career start, helped a struggling offense come to life with 309 yards passing, including a 17-yard touchdown throw to Kevin White
That pass play was West Virginia’s first touchdown hookup to a wide receiver this season against BCS-level competition.
Trickett completed less than 50 percent of his pass attempts (24-50), and he did throw a pair of interceptions, but he didn’t make the killer mistakes on West Virginia’s side of the field that happened last weekend against Maryland.
"Clint did a great job of keeping plays alive, and we had a sense that he could do that," said Holgorsen. "Just watching the film from when he was at Florida State, you could see he has that ability.
"He does not operate the offense, though, and people will ask me why he's not playing, but he has been getting better and better. The operations for me on the sideline were incredibly frustrating. I threw a couple of temper tantrums, which I am quite embarrassed about, but it is just the communication that needs to get better."
Running back Charles Sims
had 142 all-purpose yards - 82 of those coming through the air - while also punching in an important 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Also, Josh Lambert
converted three field goals of 45, 27 and 34 yards, the latter putting West Virginia up by nine with 1:56 left in the game.
Walsh, meanwhile, was a scattershot 20-of-47 passing for 322 yards and three touchdowns while throwing two critical interceptions – the Banks pick six in the first quarter and the other coming late in the game to Darwin Cook
that set up Lambert’s clinching field goal. Walsh was trying to get the ball to Tracy Moore, but he overthrew him.
Holgorsen shook up his lineup today, making 21 changes to his depth chart before the game, including at quarterback where Trickett was making his first start as a Mountaineer just a few months after transferring from Florida State.
Trickett didn’t blow up the stat sheet this afternoon but he did manage the game well; he used his feet to get out of trouble when Oklahoma State brought pressure and he made a couple of big passes down the field to Sims Ronald Carswell
, and Mario Alford
. He also made some critical throws under pressure in the fourth quarter that led to Lambert’s two field goals.
"There have been a bunch of emotions over the past week - embarrassment and disappointment - but they kept working," said Holgorsen, one week after his team's 37-0 loss to Maryland. "It was the best week of practice that we have had all year. We felt like we could win, so we went out there and wanted it pretty bad."
At the game’s outset, it looked like the well-rested Cowboys, who were coming off an open week, were going to take West Virginia out to the woodshed, especially after Josh Stewart took a screen pass 73 yards for the game’s first score with 8:32 left in the first quarter.
But the Mountaineer defense recovered and kept Oklahoma State from getting anything going in the running game. OSU finished the afternoon averaging just 2.8 yards per rush and got the vast majority of its yardage through the air.
"We went 111 yards in 40 carries," said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. "That's two and some yards a carry. That's not like us. We traditionally average four or five yards a carry. We have to be able to run the football to function offensively."
Oklahoma State’s other scores were a 27-yard TD catch by a wide open Moore in the second quarter, and Jeremy Seaton’s 30-yard reception coming out of the backfield on the Cowboys’ opening drive of the third quarter, reducing West Virginia’s lead to 24-21.
The Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1) spent almost the entire third quarter on their side of the field, starting from their own 15, 3, 24, 3 and 21. Despite that, the Cowboys couldn’t capitalize, particularly at the start of the fourth quarter when they took over in WVU territory after Stewart returned Nick O’Toole’s 57-yard punt 36 yards to the Mountaineer 44.
On second and 10, Walsh found Moore for 31 yards to the West Virginia 13. A Desmond Roland run of six yards got the ball to the 7, and after Banks was called for a facemask a third-down pass that fell incomplete, the WVU defense stiffened.
A Jeremy Smith run netted two yards on first down to the 1. Walsh then tried a fade to Moore in the back of the end zone that was unsuccessful before Dontrill Hyman
burst through the line to slam down Smith for a five-yard loss back to the 6. It looked like Smith may have also fumbled on the play (which would have been his second), but the instant replay official ruled that Smith’s knee was down before the ball came out.
From there, Gundy decided to go for a game tying 23-yard field goal that Ben Grogan clanked off the right upright. It was the first time Oklahoma State failed to score in the red zone this year. The Cowboys came into the game ranked No. 1 in the country in red zone offense.
Two possessions later, WVU scored its first points of the second half on Lambert’s field goal.
The loss was Oklahoma State’s first of the year, dropping the Cowboys to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in Big 12 play. Oklahoma State returns home to face Kansas State on Oct. 5.
"We had three total turnovers," said Gundy. "It's difficult to win when you turn the ball over like that."
The Mountaineers knows the feeling, giving the ball back to Maryland six times in last weekend's loss.
West Virginia is back on the road to face 19th-ranked Baylor in Waco. The Bears, like Oklahoma State this afternoon, will have the week off and will be well rested.