Mountaineers Storm Leaves OSU Season Damaged

Kevin White catches touchdown pass.

MORGANTOWN, W.V. - Two members of the Cowboys support staff were saying there should have been a penalty when Jhajuan Seales was shaken up diving for a J.W. Walsh pass. Reminded that Seales launched himself going for the ball, the staffers agreed it was a perfect storm as West Virginia safety Darwin Cook collided with Seales. That wasn't the only perfect storm Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.

As a team, and primarily on offense and special teams, the Cowboys created the perfect storm that provided West Virginia the recipe for a season-changing upset. The home crowd got to sing an enthusiastic version of "Country Roads" on a sun splashed afternoon in the Allegheny Mountains after a 30-21 victory.

The Mountaineers were not and are not as bad as the team that turned the ball over six times to lose to Maryland 37-0. However, without help they would not have beaten the 11th-ranked Cowboys.

After Oklahoma State took the lead on the 73-yard screen pass turned cross field and downfield tour of Mountaineer Field by Josh Stewart, Walsh threw an interception on a play that easily could have been a big completion. But Ishmael Banks instead returned the ball 58 yards for the touchdown after a review by the replay official showed Banks got in.

For the first time this season special teams became the liability that many folks feared they might with the departure of senior punter/kicker Quinn Sharp.

Before the first half ended with West Virginia leading 24-14, the Mountaineers would score their only other two touchdowns in the game after Kip Smith punts that measured in the teens. A 16-yard punt led to a 70-yard drive and a 17-yard touchdown pass from "Cinderella" quarterback Clint Trickett to hot-headed receiver Kevin White.

The following 13-yard punt was a greater disaster leading to a five-play, 43-yard drive that ended with a Charles Sims 1-yard touchdown run. That would be all the touchdowns for West Virginia, and all the Mountaineers would need.

It is a team game and you can't play all your plays on offense or defense, but the defense was more successful on this Saturday. A lot of the credit goes to the Mountaineers and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, a former Tulsa assistant.

He seemed to know he only needed to have his defenders focus on defending between the numbers and roughly 15 to 20 yards downfield. He smartly mixed up blitzes based on down and distance, mainly second and third downs and longer than five yards. Those situations came up a lot as Oklahoma State only averaged slightly under three yards on first down snaps. Take away Desmond Roland's 22-yard first half run and the first down average falls to two yards per first snap.

"You have to give those guys credit for when it was second- and third-and-long for dialing up some good blitzes," said Walsh in the locker room. "We can't put ourselves in that situation. We have to make more yards on first down, and we had a lot of yards but because of our first down problems those yards didn't count as much. We have to have more success to keep the defense on their heels."

"Our defense played well," said Mountaineers head 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. They played really well. We played okay on offense and special teams."

Senior running back Jeremy Smith did way too much dancing and not near enough running hard straight ahead which is his strength. His fumble also set up a three-and-out by West Virginia but they were so close they nailed a field goal. Just more of the storm.

"You have followed us forever," said head coach Mike Gundy. "You know we have to run the football and I want us to be good at running the football. We went 111 yards in 40 carries. 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."

While the Oklahoma a State defense gallantly kept the Cowboys in the game until near the end there were also two missed field goals by freshman Ben Grogan, including a game tying try from 23 yards.

"We played right into the crowd," said Gundy. "We had a chance to take the lead and delayed the game. We made mistakes, missed a field goal and then it snowballed downhill. It's a disappointing loss for us.

"The only thing to do now is rally, and then tomorrow get in there and really look at what we are doing. We need leaders to step up and we need players to prepare to make plays. We have to see if our schemes are good in all three phases."

Oklahoma State was just 6-of-20 on third downs with way too many asking Walsh to be a brilliant passer which he still is not. West Virginia only converted 8 of 22 third downs but exactly half of those conversions kept scoring drives alive.

"The defense may have played well and I may have made some plays, but in the end it doesn't count for much because we didn't win the game," said linebacker Caleb Lavey, who had 12 tackles and 11 were solo tackles. "We need to step up as leaders and get this turned around. We gave up too many big plays and we gave up some third downs. We could have done more."

"You guys asked about playing on the road a couple of weeks ago," said Gundy. "Playing on the road is about avoiding turnovers, perfecting the kicking game, and not giving up big plays on defense. In two of the three areas we were poor. We were poor in the kicking game and we turned the ball over. It's really very simple."

It may have rained on Saturday in Oklahoma but in the sunshine of Morgantown it severely stormed on the Cowboys football season.

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