Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Oklahoma 33, West Virginia 26 Late Effort Comes Up Short Mountaineers Fall in Ot to Cowboys

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Oklahoma 33, West Virginia 26 Late Effort Comes Up Short Mountaineers Fall in Ot to Cowboys

Article excerpt

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia clawed its way back from a listless first-half and a multi-possession hole to get even with Oklahoma State late in the fourth quarter of a game it seemingly had to win to avoid a potential tailspin. With its back firmly against an imposing wall, it had responded, and done so resoundingly.

It just came up a few plays short.

The Mountaineers (3-2, 0-2), trailing by two touchdowns in the third quarter, fought back but were unable to get past the No. 21 Cowboys (6-0, 3-0), who notched a 33-26 Big 12 Conference victory in overtime Saturday night at Milan Puskar Stadium.

The loss is West Virginia's second in a row as it prepares for two top-five opponents, Baylor (Saturday) and TCU (Oct. 29), in the next three weeks.

Without star safety Karl Joseph, who will miss the rest of the reason after injuring his knee in practice Tuesday, the Mountaineers defense performed admirably, holding a Cowboys team averaging 483 yards and 42 points per game to 362 yards and 33 points. Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph was flustered for a good portion of the game, completing only 50 percent of his passes and throwing three interceptions.

But its offense was too inconsistent and dug West Virginia too deep of a hole to recover. Wendell Smallwood was impressive once again, rushing for 147 yards and a touchdown, but a lack of a run game beyond him -- 108 yards from four other players -- and an erratic showing from quarterback Skyler Howard largely stifled coach Dana Holgorsen's attack.

A team that breezed through its first three games with a lack of turnovers -- two in all -- unraveled with five giveaways in its Oct. 3 loss to Oklahoma.

What the Mountaineers hoped was an anomaly quickly proved to be a continuing trend. Pinned inside his team's own 10 in the first quarter, Skyler Howard received a snap, but just as he was about to tuck the ball in and step back, he collided with Smallwood and the ball popped loose. Oklahoma State's Emmanuel Ogbah fell on top of it in the end zone to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.

That would mark the beginning of West Virginia's woes.

At the very end of their first quarter, and on the first play of its drive, Ogbah stripped Rushel Shell on what would have been a five or six yard gain and Oklahoma State again recovered, this time on the West Virginia 28. A one-yard touchdown run from Rennie Childs barely one minute later doubled the Cowboys' lead.

On the Mountaineers' next drive, Smallwood fumbled at the Oklahoma State 7, denying West Virginia points on its most promising drive of the game up to that point (though it would record a safety minutes later).

The sloppy play didn't completely disappear, but as the third quarter began, the Mountaineers' offense suddenly found some life.

Facing a fourth and seven on the Oklahoma State 40, Howard connected with freshman Jovon Durante for an 11-yard gain. …

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