First half setbacks doom Mountaineers in Stillwater

Gold and Blue Nation

Early game miscues proved too much for West Virginia to overcome in a 27-13 loss to No. 15 Oklahoma State Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium. 

Three critical plays in the second quarter defined West Virginia’s Big 12 opener. The Mountaineers gave up a 66-yard touchdown run, allowed Oklahoma State to return a fumble for a touchdown and then botched a snap on a field goal attempt that could have served as the team’s first points of the game. 

The Mountaineers found themselves in a 14-0 hole after those plays unfolded during a stretch of 6:19 in the second period. They trailed by as many as 17 in the first half and never led in the game. 

“It was a measuring stick, and we didn’t pass this test,” said head coach Neal Brown. “A lot of it has to do with Oklahoma State. They’ve been winning games for a long time, so they understand how to win close games. They understand how to make the routine plays and not beat themselves, and we are not at that point.”

West Virginia cut into that 17-point deficit before halftime when starting quarterback Jarret Doege connected with sophomore Winston Wright on a 70-yard touchdown strike. But the Cowboys answered with a field goal just seconds before halftime to take a 20-7 lead into the locker room. 

Then in the third quarter, an interception by senior linebacker Tony Fields appeared to give WVU some life, but the Mountaineers could only muster a 36-yard Evan Staley field goal from the ensuing drive to make it 20-10.  

An 11 play, 57-yard WVU drive to start the fourth quarter also resulted in a short Staley field goal to close the gap to 20-13 with 9:01 to play, but just like last year’s matchup with the Cowboys, the two Staley field goals marked more shortcomings for the Mountaineers, who failed to record a touchdown from either of their trips to the red zone. 

“I thought our players answered in the third quarter. Really dominated that quarter, but had very little to show for it, which is frustrating,” Brown said. “We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to be able to score touchdowns.” 

The Cowboys put the game away with a 15 play, 80-yard scoring drive on the following possession. That drive spanned 7:39 and was capped by a 23-yard scamper by running back Chuba Hubbard, moving the score to 27-13. 

West Virginia’s offense moved the ball successfully throughout the game. The Mountaineers recorded 353 yards of total offense on the day, including 270 yards in the first half. They out-gained and out-possessed their opponent in the game.

But West Virginia couldn’t overcome the drive-killing scoop and score TD by OSU’s Tyren Irby in the second quarter, as well as its 15 penalties for 125 yards. 

Doege completed 20-of-37 passes for 285 yards and a TD, but he was also sacked five times and hurried nine times in his fifth start in gold and blue. 

Starting WVU running back Leddie Brown rushed for 104 yards on 26 totes, marking his second 100-yard rushing game in a row, and the fourth of his Mountaineer career. He’s the first Mountaineer to eclipse 100 rushing yards in a Big 12 game since Kennedy McKoy did so against Oklahoma State in 2018.

The head coach praised the efforts of his junior running back, even though he did contribute to WVU’s penalty woes by committing an unsportsmanlike conduct foul in the first half.

“The effort and the strain that he plays with is what we need across the board,” Brown said. “He plays physical, ran the ball hard, broke tackles. I thought he was just this close to breaking a couple more. I thought he competed.” 

Wright also eclipsed 100 receiving yards, going for a career-high 103 yards and a score on four receptions. 

Fields and defensive back Alonzo Addae tied for the team lead in total tackles with nine apiece. Addae recorded six solo stops and half a tackle for loss for WVU.

Hubbard, the nation’s leading rusher in 2019, gained 101 rushing yards on 22 attempts, putting him back over the 100-yard threshold after netting 93 yards against Tulsa. He was also stripped twice in the second half, but WVU failed to recover either fumble. 

Hubbard’s backfield mate LD Brown was the leading rusher for OSU, running for 103 yards on 11 carries, including the Cowboys’ 66-yard TD in the second quarter that opened the scoring. 

The Mountaineers have now lost six in a row to Oklahoma State, dropping their all-time record in the series to 4-8. 

West Virginia (1-1, 0-1) will host Baylor next Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium. That game is set for a noon ET kick. 

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