By Jason Elmquist
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. —
Starting its third different quarterback of the season, the West Virginia football team pulled the Big 12 Conference’s biggest upset of the year, unseating No. 11 Oklahoma State 30-21 at Milan Puskar Stadium.
It was pretty simple, too, to pinpoint the reason for Cowboys losing their fourth straight road loss in conference play, dating back to last season’s losses at Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State.
“I said it the last couple of weeks ... being successful on the road is about avoiding turnovers, perfecting the kicking game and not giving up big plays on defense. And in two of those three areas we were poor,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “We were poor in the kicking game and turned the ball over. It’s really simple. You play right into the crowd.”
Oklahoma State turned the ball over three times with West Virginia (3-2, 1-1 in Big 12) turning them into 13 points.
On two instances, the turnover came deep in OSU territory, with both resulting in field goals, while the third was more costly, an interception returned 58 yards for a touchdown.
“I’’m going to take those on me as bad throws and move forward. That’s all you can do. You can’t dwell on those,” said OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh, who threw two interceptions and failed to complete half of his passes. “... But it’s stuff we can easily correct. It’s stuff we can easily go out and be better at.”
Compounding the issues for the Cowboys was the lack of production in the running game.
OSU mustered just 111 yards rushing on 40 carries, an average of 2.8 yards per carry. WVU wasn’t much better in that aspect, running 39 times for 68 yards for 1.7 yards per rush.
What the Mountaineers did have going for them, however, was the deep ball.
Behind quarterback Clint Trickett, a transfer from Florida State, the Mountaineers aired it out often and it paid off on several occasions, even though Cowboy cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Tyler Patmon each came away with interceptions. Trickett went 24 for 50 with 309 yards and a touchdown.
“We had the opportunity to get some more turnovers and we didn’t,” OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “The ball floated in the air some. We had some pressure at times and he just slung it up there and we didn’t make plays.”
Walsh was able to put up some decent numbers of his own for the OSU offense.
The redshirt sophomore from Denton, Texas, threw for 322 yards and was responsible for all three of Oklahoma State’s touchdowns.
Walsh’s first touchdown pass gave the Cowboys (3-1, 0-1 in Big 12) their only lead of the game when he hooked up with Josh Stewart — when he took a short pass over the middle and broke it loose for a 73-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter.
Senior receiver Tracy Moore, who hadn’t seen many looks the first three games of the season, was the recipient of Walsh’s second TD on a 27-yard pass up the middle. Tight end Jeremy Seaton, a Cashion native, caught OSU’s final touchdown of the game four minutes into the second half on a wide open pass play for 30 yards.
The offense put itself in position to tie the game early in the fourth thanks to a 36-yard punt return by Stewart that start a drive at West Virginia’s 44-yard line.
After getting down to the 1-yard line — thanks in large to a 31-yard pass play to Moore — the Cowboys couldn’t punch it in for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown.
Instead, freshman Ben Grogan had a 23-yard field goal try with 9:47 left in the game hit off the inside of the right upright that would have tied the contest. Grogan also missed a 44-yard attempt wide left right before halftime.
“Emotionally, when we miss the field goal down there it got the crowd back into the game,” Gundy said. “... There’s certain things we take for granted at this level of football — short field goals, being on the 1-yard line and scoring. When you fall short in those areas, the emotions go to the other team and to their crowd.”
Oklahoma State never got the ball past its own 30-yard line on its final three possessions following the miss. That led to the Mountaineers getting two more field goals to put the game away.
The Cowboys, who were three-touchdown favorites over a Mountaineer team that had just been shutout by Maryland, will face another struggling Big 12 team this week when Oklahoma State hosts Kansas State, who did not play this weekend, at Boone Pickens Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
GAME NOTES: Gundy uncertain about Gilbert’s status following ejection
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was uncertain on the status of cornerback Justin Gilbert for next week’s game after Saturday’s ejection. Late in the loss, with the game no longer in doubt, Gilbert was ejected for throwing several punches, including a big uppercut during a skirmish with a West Virginia player.
“To be honest with you, they’ve changed the rule so much that I don’t know,” Gundy said. “I don’t think so, because it wasn’t a defenseless player, I don’t think it does. But I should know that.
“I guess I’m just not prepared for our guys to do that. We don’t stand for that and we’ve got to be better than that.”
Gilbert may not be the only player in doubt for next week’s contest against Kansas State.
Receivers Josh Stewart and Jhajuan Seales appeared to sustain head injuries in the closing minutes, with Stewart being walked to the locker room before the game was over and Seales lying motionless on the field, until members of the training staff came to his aid in the final minute.
Running for nothing, kicks were bad
With the struggles in the run game, OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh ended up being OSU’s leading rusher with 52 yards on 16 carries — an average of 3.2 per carry. Starting running back Jeremy Smith wasn’t able to do much of anything with 15 carries for a net of one yard with his longest run being four yards. The longest run of the game came from Desmond Roland, who was given the ball just seven times and was still able to rack up 46 yards thanks to one run going for 22 yards.
The poor averages didn’t only strike the rushing game of Oklahoma State.
Cowboy punter Kip Smith had his worst showing as OSU’s punter. Replacing longtime punter Quinn Sharp, Smith averaged 37.9 yards per punt — shy of his season average of 40.2 through the first three games.
With having to punt 10 times, Smith did land four attempts inside the 20-yard line. He also had a long of 50 yards. But a 13-yard shank late in the first half allowed West Virginia to move just 43 yards for a touchdown that put the Mountaineers up 24-14 at halftime.
Conference road woes continue
The last time Oklahoma State won on the road in Big 12 Conference action was last season in a less than impressive 20-14 win over a Kansas team that has not won a conference game in two years. However, in the four straight conference road losses the Cowboys have lost by an average of eight points.