It was a downtrodden Neal Brown who faced the computer video camera for his postgame Zoom press conference following the 27-13 loss by his Mountaineers to Oklahoma State Saturday in steamy Stillwater.
“Today was not good enough,” WVU’s second-year head coach stated. “That was the story of the game; we just weren’t good enough.
“It was an extremely disappointing performance. We were an undisciplined football team, and that’s on myself and our coaches.”
West Virginia did some things reasonably well in Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday. With junior running back Leddie Brown leading the way with 104 rushing yards, the Mountaineer ground game continued to show some signs of improvement, though in the end, negative plays allowed the visitors to net just 68 rushing yards.
WVU’s Jarret Doege also passed for 285 yards, completing 20 of 37, but he was also sacked five times. One of those sacks resulted in a fumble, which OK State returned 56 yards for a second quarter touchdown.
West Virginia was simply more mistake-prone than the Cowboys, which allowed OSU to defeat the Mountaineers for the sixth straight year.
“We had 12 penalties and gave them 10 points on offense – the fumble that led to the scoop and score and then the procedure penalty on third-and-one that gave them the ball back right before the half. It was just undisciplined – the receiver not getting lined up and the quarterback not looking,” said Brown. “That gave them a field goal there, so that’s 10 points we gave them on offense.
“Before we can win big games, we have to quit losing ‘em,” added Brown.
For much of the game, West Virginia was able to move the football. It finished with more total yards than Oklahoma State (353 to 342) and moved into Cowboy territory on six of its 13 possessions. But WVU’s own mistakes, or those forced by the home team, allowed West Virginia to score just 10 points.
The inability to finish drives was something Brown harped on last season, and he did so again Saturday.
“Different game, same story from last year,” said an exasperated head coach. “We didn’t get down into the score zone as much. It was that 30-yard line area that we could not break, for whatever reason.”
It wasn’t just the Mountaineer offense that drew the coach’s ire. WVU didn’t get much pressure on OK State true freshman quarterback Shane Illingworth – just one sack and one QB hurry – and the Pokes also were able to break a couple big plays in the run game.
Especially painful was Oklahoma State’s lengthy fourth quarter drive. West Virginia had cut the OSU lead to just one touchdown (20-13) with a field goal at the 9:01 mark of the fourth quarter. The Cowboys, who improved to 2-0 with the win, took the next drive and rammed it down the Mountaineers’ throat, going 80 yards in 15 plays – 12 of them runs – to seal the win with a 23-yard Chuba Hubbard touchdown run with just 1:17 left to play.
“They rushed for (203) yards and had two 100-yard rushers,” noted Brown as OSU’s L.D. Brown had 103 yards on the ground and Hubbard had 101. “They ran (7:39) off the clock there at the end to put the game away on the last score.
“We had two misfits on that drive, and a misfit on their long run (a 66-yard TD by Brown in the second quarter). That’s disappointing because we were not in the gap we were supposed to be. It’s different if we just miss a tackle. If we miss a tackle, that’s going to happen, but we were in the wrong gap. That’s frustrating.
“Once they got into that 30-yard range, they were able to score touchdowns and we didn’t,” continued Brown. “Then you have to look at penalties and the 10 points we gave them on offense. That’s the difference in the game.
“They also repeatedly made routine plays. I don’t think they did anything extraordinary, but they continually stacked routine plays, and that’s how you win games. We didn’t do that.”
West Virginia’s coach hopes his charges learn some lessons from the loss in Stillwater.
“You make your own breaks. We had opportunities, but we just didn’t do it,” said Brown. “The law of averages work out for you if you do things the right way, but we didn’t take advantage of them today.
“We have to get better. Somebody asked me earlier in the week if this was a measuring stick game; absolutely it was. But we didn’t pass this test,” WVU’s coach concluded as his team dropped to 1-1 on the season. “A lot of that has to do with Oklahoma State, because they’ve been winning games here for a long time. They understand how to win close games and understand how to make routine plays and understand how not to beat themselves. We’re not at that point yet. That’s the rude awakening of this game; we’re not at that point yet. So, how do we handle the next week? How do come back after not playing and not competing like we needed to against one of the top teams in our league?
“We have to regroup and get better, because most of our guys are going to be here for three years or more. This core is going to play a lot of football for us, and we have to get better.”
With that, a disappointed coach stood up, slapped the table in disgust and head out the door, knowing many corrections are needed before his team is ready to come away with victories against the better teams in the Big 12.