WVU Meltdown In Stillwater Leads To Disappointing Loss
Just like the Mountaineers, it started out as a warm afternoon in Stillwater, but things got progressively chillier as the day progressed.
After rushing for 162 yards in the first half, West Virginia managed just 27 in the second. That first half rushing onslaught was led by WVU’s Kennedy McKoy who had 131 yards on 13 carries in the opening 30 minutes but he managed just 17 more yards in the second half on eight attempts.
That hot and cold trend was countered by Oklahoma State, which started out with 208 total yards of offense – 119 passing and 89 rushing – in scoring 14 first half points. But the Cowboys warmed up when it counted, and amassed 219 passing yards, 177 rushing yards and most importantly 31 points in the second half to pull out the 45-41 victory.
“Congratulation to Coach (Mike) Gundy and Oklahoma State. They’ve been in a lot of these (high-scoring games), and you could tell they had a better mindset down the stretch than we did,” noted WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen, whose club dropped to 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big 12 Conference with the loss. “It’s disappointing that we couldn’t close them out. We had them on the ropes but didn’t close them out. Great teams close people out. We didn’t do it. We’re going to have to regroup and go out next week and see what we’re made of.”
Next week will bring Oklahoma to Mountaineer Field for a Friday night affair. A spot in the Big 12 championship game will be on the line, as the winner will go to AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Dec. 1 where it will likely play Texas. The loser of the Black Friday clash in Morgantown will probably be out of the Big 12 title game hunt, though there are scenarios where the Sooners could go to Arlington even if it falls to WVU.
Because Texas defeated Iowa State Saturday night, West Virginia could have locked up a spot in Big 12 championship game if it had defeated Oklahoma State in Stillwater. But the Cowboys put an end to that immediate path for WVU by controlling the pace throughout the second half and thwarting several Mountaineer scoring opportunities.
“If you can’t convert third- and fourth-and-an-inch, you’re going to get beat,” stated Holgorsen. “The quarterback run game with third-and-(one) in the red zone (when Will Grier fumbled) was stupid.”
Despite short-yardage struggles, West Virginia’s offense still posted 553 yards and 41 points. But in a shootout against a Cowboy club capable of scoring in bunches, WVU couldn’t squander any opportunities if it hoped to pull out the win, and the Mountaineers came up empty on three-of-seven red zone chances.
“I think we left probably 14 points out there,” explained Holgorsen. “When you’re in the red zone and can’t punch it in, if you’re a great offense, you can’t do that. I guess we’re not a great offense, because we couldn’t do that.
“We knew that they were going to score a lot of points. That’s who they are,” continued WVU’s head coach, who fell for the fifth time in seven meetings with Oklahoma State since taking over the Mountaineer program in 2011. “Their average Big 12 game is 40-39. They’ve been in all kinds of these games. We haven’t. But we knew we were going to have to score a lot of points. It was disappointing that we were down there as much as we were, had a lot of good field position and we couldn’t close out with points.”
While West Virginia’s offense was leaving points on the field, Oklahoma State’s own attack was scoring almost at will in the second half. The Cowboy offense had the ball for six possessions in the final 30 minutes, and it scored four touchdowns and one field goal in those opportunities, as it was only forced to punt once.
“They spread us out, and we had too many guys blow assignments and miss tackles,” said WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “It was an ugly second half. I thought the first half we came out and played well, created turnovers and created momentum. We certainly didn’t do any of that in the second half.”