Oklahoma State hammers WVU, 55-34
STILLWATER, Okla. — With each passing week, the losses are becoming more difficult to accept.
Following Saturday's 55-34 blowout loss to Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium, coach Dana Holgorsen gave it to his team full blast in the aftermath of the Mountaineers' first four-game losing streak since 2001.
“It's discouraging,” Holgorsen said. “I made this comment to the coaches that some of the mistakes I saw out there were junior high mistakes. You get into an environment like this, you've got to be mentally tough enough to go out there and execute the way you've been doing for a long, long time. We're clearly not getting through to our players that you need to go out there and not make junior high mistakes 100 percent of the time.”
Mistakes doomed WVU (5-4, 2-4 Big 12), which never recovered from an early 14-0 deficit.
On the Mountaineers' second play from scrimmage, quarterback Geno Smith collided with running back Andrew Buie during a handoff and lost 3 yards. In the third quarter at the Oklahoma State 17 following a holding penalty, Buie tripped over Smith after taking a handoff and lost 3 yards. The Mountaineers settled for a field goal.
However, it was receiver Tavon Austin misplaying a third-quarter punt that really damaged WVU's comeback chances.
Austin didn't move away from the bouncing punt quickly enough. The ball hit Austin, and Oklahoma State's Teddy Johnson recovered at the Mountaineers' 12.
Three plays later, quarterback Clint Chelf's 5-yard touchdown pass gave Oklahoma State (6-3, 4-2) a 38-24 lead.
“When you play a good team, you can't make silly mistakes,” Holgorsen said. “We work handoffs every single day. We work fielding punts every single day. We made silly mistakes on offense. We made silly mistakes on defense. We flat out gave them 17 points.”
WVU has allowed three Big 12 opponents to score at least 50 points this season. All six conference opponents have scored at least 39 points against the Mountaineers, who haven't won since a 48-45 victory at Texas on Oct. 6.
Offensively, the Mountaineers displayed flashes of their former selves but struggled to maintain consistency over four quarters.
Smith was 36 of 54 for 364 yards and two touchdowns. Junior receiver Stedman Bailey had 14 receptions for 225 yards and a touchdown.
Oklahoma State led, 14-0, behind a pair of Josh Stewart touchdowns. Stewart scored on a 46-yard reverse on the Cowboys' opening drive to make it 7-0.
WVU's defense held on the next possession, but Oklahoma State came right back when Chelf connected with Stewart on a 21-yard slant for a two-touchdown advantage.
WVU got on the scoreboard when backup quarterback Paul Millard threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Bailey to make it 14-7. Millard replaced Smith, who lost his helmet following a sack on the previous play. NCAA rules stipulate a player must come off the field for at least one play upon losing his helmet.
Oklahoma State erased any momentum for WVU when Justin Gilbert returned the ensuing kickoff for a 96-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
WVU answered when Smith hit Austin for a 17-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 21-14.
Oklahoma State responded, making it 28-14 on Chelf's 48-yard touchdown pass to tight end Blake Jackson.
WVU fumbled and lost the ensuing kickoff, resulting in a Oklahoma State field goal and a 31-14 lead.
Tyler Bitancurt's 41-yard field goal cut the Cowboys' lead to 31-17 before halftime.
Smith guided WVU on an 88-yard scoring drive covering three plays to open the second half. One play after completing a 75-yard pass to Bailey, Smith tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Nehlen. The Mountaineers trailed, 31-24, with 12:32 left in the third quarter.
Smith scored on a 1-yard sneak to pull WVU within 38-34 with 5:20 left in the third quarter.
Oklahoma State turned a close game into a rout by scoring touchdowns on its first two drives to open the fourth quarter.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.