Grading The Mountaineers: OSU Report Card
West Virginia got off to a strong start Saturday at Oklahoma State. It controlled most of the first 30 minutes and took a 31-14 lead into the lockerroom at halftime.
The second half was a different story, though, as the Mountaineer offense left opportunities on the field and their defense just couldn’t get stops, giving up scoring drives on five of OSU’s six second half possessions. The Cowboys came storming back for a 45-41 victory that ended the College Football Playoff dreams for the 8-2 Mountaineers.
Let’s grade West Virginia’s effort in Stillwater.
Offensive Grade – C WVU posted 41 points and 553 yards in the contest, but in the end, that wasn’t enough. The Mountaineers left too many points on the field against an Oklahoma State offense capable of generating incredible numbers itself. This was a classic shootout, and West Virginia scored five touchdowns and two field goals. But it was stopped with no points twice inside the OSU 18, and that doesn’t count the last-gasp opportunity that ended at the 14 with an incompletion in the end zone as time expired. The Mountaineers also ran for 162 yards in the first half but just 27 in the second. WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said it best after the tough loss – “We had a chance to close them out and we didn’t. Great teams close people out, and we didn’t do that.”
Defensive Grade – D West Virginia got stops and turnovers in the first half. A pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery, as well as forcing four OSU punts, had the Mountaineers sitting with a comfortable 17-point halftime lead. But as West Virginia’s offense began to sputter in the second half, its defense began to get torched. Of the 604 yards amassed by the Cowboys in the game, 396 came in the second half. OSU’s quarterback Taylor Cornelius hurt the Mountaineers as much with his feet as his arm. He ran for 86 yards in the second half and 106 in the game, while throwing for 338 yards in total. Other than a turnover on a muffed punt late in the third quarter, West Virginia’s defense managed just one other stop in the second half. The WVU offense could have help out its defensive brethren, but the Mountaineer defense did little to help itself.
Special teams – B- There were positives and negatives to West Virginia’s special teams’ effort. A partially blocked punt was the worst of the negatives, but it at least rolled for 26 yards, keeping it from being awful. The biggest positive was recovering an OSU muff when OK State’s Dillon Stoner tried to catch a bouncing punt. Josh Chandler recovered for WVU, but the Mountaineer offense couldn’t completely cash in the gift, settling for a field goal on a drive that started on the Cowboys’ 18.
Coaching – D When a team wins the turnover battle 4-1, it simply isn’t supposed to lose. Yet West Virginia managed to defy those odds despite being +3 in turnover margin. WVU’s defensive coaches couldn’t figure out anything to slow down the Cowboys in the second half, and the Mountaineers’ short yardage offense remains an issue. Twice Saturday it failed to convert when facing a yard or less to go. Then clinging to a 41-38 lead late, Dana Holgorsen’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-six was thwarted by a false start penalty on senior David Sills. Lack of focus by the player also has to be shouldered by the coaches.
Atmosphere – B- It was a near perfect afternoon weather-wise in Stillwater. The temperature at kickoff was 64, and while it dropped a good bit the course of the game, it remained a nice mid-November day. Despite the excellent fall weather in central Oklahoma, Boone Pickens Stadium had large swaths of empty seats. Oklahoma State students were on the front end of their Thanksgiving break, so their absence was understandable. Still, the 56,790-seat stadium was barely half full at the start, and 50 percent of those left at halftime. Those who departed missed a memorable comeback in OSU annals. When a fan base is used to 10+ win seasons, as the Cowboys have enjoyed in six of the previous eight years, a fall to .500 is met with apathy even on Senior Day.