Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State was an emotional roller coaster.
It wasn’t the kind of one like the Texas game in which fans jumped off smiling from ear-to-ear, wanting to ride it again and again, flashing “Horns Down” as they re-entered.
This was the kind of roller coaster that had many grabbing barf bags, sick to their stomachs of watching the Mountaineers’ College Football Playoff chances fall off a cliff.
If you watched the game from start to finish, you probably felt confident in West Virginia’s 17-point halftime lead. West Virginia’s offense was seemingly moving the ball at will, thanks in large part due to the efforts of Kennedy McKoy, who was averaging over 10 yards per carry. Will Grier was on pace to surpass his season averages and the defense had forced three turnovers. All was good.
And then the roller coasted bottomed out.
It was tough to watch West Virginia fall short on another fourth-and-one opportunity inside Oklahoma State’s 10-yard line, but on the hierarchy of grievances from this game, that nears the bottom.
Following an Oklahoma State quick touchdown drive to open the half, arguably the game’s defining play came mid-way through the third quarter, when, on third and one at the Oklahoma State nine-yard line, Grier was tackled for a loss and the ball fell out of his grasp as he hit the turf. Called down on the field, the officials reviewed the play and overturned the call without conclusive evidence to the naked eye that Grier did indeed fumble.
This would be the first call and the second no-call that would doom West Virginia on the day by the Big 12 zebras.
Had West Virginia received the benefit of the doubt, it probably would have at least gotten three out of the possession.
Much like the Texas Tech game, conservative and often times confusing play-calling decisions stalled the WVU offense to just 168 yards prior to the game’s final drive. The boiling point came when Oklahoma State had just given West Virginia a gift of a fumble inside its own 20. The Mountaineer offense responded by going a whole one yard in four plays and had to settle for a field goal. The Oklahoma State defense played with reckless abandonment and like a team that had nothing to lose. On the other hand, West Virginia didn’t move the pile up front and receivers created little separation, mirroring the Iowa State game.
Though, it was another game highlighted by up-and-coming tight end Trevon Wesco, who made a sensational one-handed catch en route to a 43-yard pick up. Wesco’s catch propelled the Mountaineers to a yeoman-like touchdown that included two 4th-down conversions. He continues to make the case that he should be a prospect for the NFL, not only for his much-improved receiving skills, but his tremendous blocking ability.
On the other side of the ball, the Mountaineer defense had no answer for Oklahoma State’s quarterback Taylor Cornelius, who led the Cowboys to 31-second half points — the most West Virginia had allowed in a half all season. Cornelius finished the day passing for 338 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown. He reminded me of Cincinnati’s Tony Pike from the late 2000’s. Mike Gundy just turned him loose like Brian Kelly did Pike, and Cornelius tossed the ball wherever he wanted. Chuba Hubbard proved to be as formidable of a back that West Virginia has faced all season. He finished the day with 134 yards on 26 carries and 24 yards on five receptions and a receiving touchdown. The WVU secondary had no answer for OSU’s receiving corps, led by Dillon Stoner and Tylan Wallace.
The Old Gold and Blue’s defensive performance is even more disappointing, considering the fact that Oklahoma State’s best two weapons Jalen McCleskey and Justice Hill didn’t even play in this game.
Up three with under three minutes to play in regulation and at West Virginia’s 49-yard line, David Sills uncharacteristically false started on fourth-and-six, making it too much of a risk for Dana Holgorsen to endorse going for it. In less than two minutes, Oklahoma State came back with the go-ahead score.
The Mountaineers had one last drive to pull out the victory with two timeouts, 75 yards to go and 42 seconds on the game clock. Following a three-yard run by Grier on West Virginia’s first play of the series, Holgorsen strangely allowed 22 seconds to run. In hindsight, who knows what West Virginia could have done with that added time. With two seconds on the clock and at the OSU 14, Grier flung up a prayer for David Sills in the end zone that was batted away by a A.J. Green, who (in addition to all day) mugged Sills across the end zone on a drag route. No call.
This loss really just changes West Virginia’s postseason aspirations a bit, considering Texas did West Virginia a favor and knocked Iowa State out of the conference title picture. A national title is all but out of the question, and with Ohio State pulling out a victory over Maryland Saturday, it’s looking more and more like the final four will be the three unbeaten Power Five teams and a one-loss Big 10 Champion, unless chaos ensues.
Therefore, fans, please don’t jump off the Star City Bridge because of this loss. Instead, the top goal now becomes a) beat Oklahoma and b) win the Big 12. It’s all on the line Friday — a night game and Senior Night at Milan Puskar Stadium.
All aboard the Mountaineer roller coaster for one last wild ride. Who’s hopping on?