The Mountaineers piled up 778 total yards and 49 points against Oklahoma’s defense -- including a school-record 344 rushing yards from receiver-turned-running back Tavon Austin -- but crucial letdowns in all three phases of play doomed WVU to another loss, this one a 50-49 decision on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“They made one more play than we did,” Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “The kids played hard. How many losses like this do we have to go through? I don’t know.”
It was West Virginia’s fifth-consecutive setback -- the program’s worst losing streak since 1986. It was WVU’s third home loss in a row, the program’s longest home skid since its last three in Morgantown in 1990.
Pick your moment. West Virginia had every opportunity to win this one over the No. 13 Sooners, but just couldn’t put it away.
A missed extra-point kick from Tyler Bitancurt, which came after a third quarter touchdown made the score 38-30, loomed large in the outcome. The Mountaineers had a pair of 2-point conversion tries to make up the deficiency, but both failed -- a pass to Stedman Bailey fell incomplete on the first; a Geno Smith scramble didn’t get to the goal line on the second.
Offensive Player of the Game
8 kick returns
146 kick return yards
“How do you miss an extra point? It’s inexcusable,” Holgorsen said.
That allowed Oklahoma to take the lead with a last-minute drive against the struggling Mountaineer defense. On fourth-and-3 from the WVU 5-yard line, Sooners signal-caller Landry Jones connected with receiver Kenny Stills for a touchdown, Stills’ fourth of the night and Jones’ sixth.
Most importantly, though, OU left only 24 seconds on the clock. With West Virginia already having exhausted its three timeouts, coaches couldn’t reasonably hand the ball off to Austin. The ensuing drive got to midfield, but Smith’s desperate heave on the last play fell incomplete short of the goal line.
“Tough loss,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve got to regroup.”
But there were other moments that mattered beyond Bitancurt’s missed kick. The offense stalled in the red zone, getting stuffed on a fourth-and-1 carry by Andrew Buie. A field goal could have been enough.
Holgorsen called timeouts before a pair of 2-point conversion tries: one by Oklahoma’s offense and one by his own. That limited the offense’s options on the final possession.
And then there was the defense, victimized again by a Big 12 offense. Oklahoma’s numbers weren’t quite as gaudy as WVU’s, but they were still enough: 662 yards, 8.1 yards per play, 9-of-15 on third downs and 50 points.
“You get in these tight games and it’s who is going to make those plays at the end of the game to get the win,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “Fortunately, we were able to do it this time, execute well when we had to, and put it in there at the end.”
Defensive Player of the Game
1 tackle for loss
It spoiled an explosive effort from Austin, who was simply unstoppable. He set a Big 12 record for all-purpose yardage (572), finishing with 82 receiving yards to go with his 344 rushing yards and 146 kickoff return yards. Oklahoma (8-2, 6-1 Big 12) simply wasn’t prepared for the senior to see so much action in the backfield.
“I didn’t think I was going to get it 21 times,” Austin said. “I always told them that’s what I did in high school, and I still have it a little bit.”
Both Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson indicated the position move will likely stick moving forward.
“Sure. Why not?” Holgorsen said. “He played a lot at receiver too. Moving him around and giving him some different matchups was probably a pretty good idea.”
Receiver Stedman Bailey added 205 yards and four touchdowns on 13 catches for the Mountaineers (5-5, 2-5). Oklahoma’s defense had only allowed three passing touchdowns all year coming into the game.
For the Sooners, Jones threw for 554 yards and six touchdowns, completing 38 of 51 passes. Damien Williams added 92 rushing yards on 22 carries. Four OU receivers had 90 or more yards, led by Jalen Saunders with 123 and a score on seven grabs.
Once 5-0 and in the nation’s top, West Virginia must now win one of its last two games to simply achieve bowl eligibility. Its next chance comes Friday at Iowa State.