Oklahoma squelches WVU comeback, losing skid reaches 5
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Tavon Austin, Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey nearly led West Virginia to a remarkable comeback against No. 13 Oklahoma on Saturday night before 50,238 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Fighting from behind all game, the Mountaineers caught fire behind their talented offensive trio but couldn't prevent a 50-49 loss.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones crushed the Mountaineers' comeback with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills with 24 seconds remaining. It was Jones' sixth touchdown pass of the game.
Jones passed for a school-record 554 yards.
The loss was the fifth straight for WVU and marks the school's longest losing streak since 1986.
“Tough loss,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We've got to regroup.”
WVU is 5-5, 2-5 in the Big 12. Oklahoma is 8-2, 6-1.
Led by Austin, who set a Big 12 record for all-purpose yards with 572, the Mountaineers rallied from a 38-24 third-quarter deficit.
Set up by Austin's 54-yard run, WVU took its first lead of the game, 43-38, on Smith's 8-yard touchdown pass to Bailey with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma regained the lead, 45-43, but WVU went back in front on Smith's 40-yard touchdown pass to Bailey with 2:53 to play. It was their fourth touchdown hook-up of the game.
“Our kids played extremely hard, but they made one more play than we did,” West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “We make one more play, and we win the game.”
Austin, who played running back in a surprise move, sparked the offense with 344 rushing yards and 572 total yards. He scored on a 74-yard touchdown run to open the second half.
“I'm not surprised at all,” West Virginia fullback Cody Clay said of Austin. “Tavon's a hell of a player. He deserves it.”
Following a recent trend, WVU fell behind early. Oklahoma scored on its first two drives to make it 10-0.
The Sooners drove 75 yards in 13 plays to take a 7-0 lead. With Jones mixing short and long passes, the Sooners kept WVU's defense guessing. Jones' 4-yard touchdown pass to Trey Millard capped a 75-yard scoring drive.
The Mountaineers showed a new offensive look the first time they had the ball. Struggling to get the ground game going, coach Dana Holgorsen moved Austin to running back. After catching a pass for 15 yards, Austin ran for 9 yards. Oklahoma called a timeout to adjust its defense.
“It took me a couple of plays to get used to it again,” Austin said about his role change. “Then, it was like riding a bike.”
The drive ended on Smith's interception, which Oklahoma defensive back Aaron Colvin returned to the WVU 33. Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt's 32-yard field goal made it 10-0.
Austin fueled WVU's next drive with his legs. He gained 42 yards on three straight runs, including a 31-yard burst. It led to Tyler Bitancurt's 19-yard field goal as the Mountaineers cut the deficit to 10-3.
“We don't need to endorse it to know that Tavon Austin makes plays,” running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. “Practice didn't allow us to know that. He's been doing that since he's been here.
WVU tied it, 10-10, on Andrew Buie's 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down. The score was set up when Will Clarke (Allderdice) forced a fumble and defensive back Cecil Level recovered at the OU 48.
Oklahoma scored touchdowns on two consecutive drives to make it 24-10. Jalen Sunders split the WVU secondary on a 76-yard touchdown reception. On the Sooners' next drive, Jones threw a 4-yard scoring pass to Stills to cap a 76-yard scoring drive.
WVU responded with Smith throwing a beautiful 33-yard touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey to make it 24-17.
Oklahoma, though, answered with another touchdown drive late in the first half.
Damien Williams' 48-yard touchdown run capped a four-play, 75-yard drive and gave Oklahoma a 31-17 lead.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Tota Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.