MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the second week in a row, an offensive player on the opposing team thrashed WVU’s defense on the way to a win.
WVU (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) lost its second-straight Big 12 match 48-34 to Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) in an offense-filled Saturday afternoon in Morgantown.
“This one stings more than even the one last week [did],” head coach Neal Brown said.
The Oklahoma State defense came to play early Saturday afternoon, and it set up its offense with two scoring drives early.
After the Cowboys gifted WVU great field position on a muffed punt in Mountaineer territory, OSU defensive back Kendal Daniels ripped the ball out of tight end Kole Taylor’s hands on a short completion from junior quarterback Garrett Greene (15-for 30, 249 yards, two touchdowns, one interception). Nine plays later, OSU settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Greene and WVU drained less than two minutes of clock and ran just three plays before Greene threw an ill-advised pass to WVU receiver Devin Carter down the sideline that was intercepted by OSU DB Korie Black and returned to WVU’s 39-yard line.
The short field set up OSU for its first touchdown of the game on a two-yard scoring run by sophomore Cowboys’ running back Ollie Gordon.
Gordon scored four times Saturday while running for 282 yards. He averaged 9.7 yards per carry. As a team, OSU averaged 8.9 yards per rush.
At the close of the first quarter, WVU faced a 10-0 deficit. It was the third game this season – and the first since the Backyard Brawl – that WVU was shut out in the first quarter.
By the time the second quarter came around, the Mountaineers were well inside OSU territory on their third drive of the game. Greene hit redshirt sophomore receiver Preston Fox for 19 yards to set WVU up inside the OSU 5-yard line, and junior running back Justin Johnson Jr. (14 rushes, 72 yards, one touchdown) punched in the touchdown run for his first score of the season.
The Mountaineers responded to its first scoring drive by forcing an OSU punt after a three-and-out. To make things even more suitable, senior defensive lineman Davoan Hawkins blocked the kick and set up WVU at its own 41-yard line. WVU then tied the score at 10-10 with a 34-yard field goal from redshirt junior Michael Hayes.
Greene rushed for 30 yards on the field-goal scoring drive, but OSU regained the lead at 13-10 with a field goal on the ensuing drive.
With WVU approaching midfield and under five minutes remaining in the half, Greene finally connected on his first long ball of the game, and it paid off significantly for the Mountaineers. On 3rd-and-9 from the OSU 45, Greene scrambled left as the play broke down in front of him. Carter, who was initially covered on his route, spun and sprinted towards the end zone, and Greene provided a perfect ball for the 45-yard score and a 17-13 lead.
Neither team scored on the next seven drives, which was largely thanks to a missed OSU field goal from redshirt senior Alex Hale with seconds remaining in the first half.
The Mountaineers suffered two three-and-outs on offense before OSU took its third lead (20-17) of the night on a five-yard touchdown connection between OSU quarterback Alan Bowman (24-for-36, 210 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) and redshirt sophomore receiver Jaden Bray.
One of WVU’s third-quarter three-and-outs came after Anthony Wilson picked off Bowman inside the WVU five-yard line. The Cowboys scored 17 points off their three turnovers on defense Saturday afternoon, while WVU did not convert either of their turnovers into points.
WVU finally found some luck on the next drive. A defensive pass interference set up the Mountaineers in Cowboy territory before Greene ripped a 32-yard touchdown to junior Marshall transfer EJ Horton for Horton’s first WVU touchdown and a 24-20 lead.
The Mountaineers’ second lead of the night quickly evaporated. WVU held OSU to a punt on the next drive, but WVU protector Andrew Wilson-Lamp collided with returner Preston Fox with the ball rapidly approaching. The ball tipped off Fox, and the Cowboys recovered at WVU’s 32-yard line.
“We work that twice a week, that very situation, and that’s a hard one for me to explain,” Brown said.
Two plays later, Gordon took a 16-yard carry into the end zone for his second score of the night and a 27-24 lead.
For the third time Saturday afternoon, WVU responded to one of OSU’s scoring drives with points of its own.
A 30-yard rush from Johnson Jr. set the Mountaineers up in enemy territory. WVU reached goal-to-go territory before Hayes drilled a 29-yarder to tie the score at 27-27 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
Penalties severely hindered the Mountaineers on the next drive. The Cowboys earned 35 yards on their second play of the drive when 30 extra yards were added to Gordon’s five-yard rush after a facemask penalty from WVU corner Beanie Bishop and a late-hit from linebacker Ben Cutter. OSU then marched to WVU’s 29-yard line before Bowman connected with Brennan Pressley on a 29-yard touchdown pass for a 34-27 lead on a swing screen.
WVU safeties Marcis Floyd and Aubrey Burks both missed tackles on Pressley in the open field.
“I thought our guy was clearly held at the point of attack,” Brown said.
With exactly seven minutes left in the game, the Mountaineers had one last chance.
Johnson Jr. and Greene combined for 25 rushing yards to get WVU to midfield for a 4th-and-short with the game on the line. WVU overloaded the left side of the line for the play, but Greene lost four yards on a quarterback keeper.
“Sometimes he thinks he’s Superman and can make all the plays, but that read told him to give it, and he’s got to give it,” Brown said. “I’m not faulting him because I thought he was the only reason we had a chance. He was really good.”
Gordon exploded for a game-sealing 46-yard touchdown run on the very next play on what appeared to be a dagger into WVU’s heart.
But the Mountaineers said, “Not so fast, my friend.”
WVU proceeded to unleash its most productive drive of the afternoon on a six-play, 75 yard scoring drive that ended in CJ Donaldson’s first score of the night. Greene set up the score with a 34-yard pass to Fox.
If Gordon’s third touchdown of the night, his fourth certainly was. With WVU still hanging on to three timeouts, Gordon broke off a 53-yard score for the deciding 48-34 lead.
The WVU offense could not muster any more points on the night.
“I thought this was a game that, going into the fourth quarter, we had a chance,” Brown said. “[We] really had a chance to go up and take either a seven or an eleven-point lead. [There were] some mistakes that I have a hard time explaining.”
WVU will continue its season next week with a road matchup at UCF (3-4, 0-4 Big 12).