Like I said last week, the result of this weekend’s Big 12 matchups potentially decided West Virginia’s path to the conference championship. The best case scenario was of course, a Mountaineer win in Stillwater, followed by a Longhorn win vs. Iowa State. Texas did their part, but the Mountaineers were unable to pull off a win against the Cowboys.
At halftime, West Virginia held a 17 point lead. Oklahoma State made some obvious adjustments in the locker room, while the Mountaineers seemingly hit the brakes. The Pokes outscored them 31-10 in the second half, sealing the deal with a (literal) last minute touchdown that left 42 seconds on the clock. West Virginia, in true fashion, was unable to clutch a win, falling to Oklahoma State 45-41.
After a good 36 hours to reflect on this loss, I think it’s pretty obvious where the problem lies. The Pokes’ coaching staff made the necessary adjustments to come out and win a ball game – the West Virginia coaching staff did not. The Mountaineer defense had no answers for the passing attack the Pokes implemented, and the run game was almost completely nonexistent. Kennedy McKoy, who had 131 yards in the first half, only racked up 17 more after halftime. Once the run was stopped, Oklahoma State was able to utilize their talented defensive backs to bully the Mountaineer receivers.
Regardless of leading 41-31 in the fourth quarter, Dana Holgorsen twice decided to go for it on fourth down while deep in Oklahoma State territory. While questionable, it’s obvious why this was called. The defense was getting ran over, and Holgorsen wanted to keep Grier and the offense on that field for as long as possible. One of those calls actually paid off, resulting in a Will Grier touchdown. However, it still makes me question why Holgorsen was so unsure of his defense and why Tony Gibson failed to make the proper adjustments to counter the Cowboys.
The Mountaineer coaching staff needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. With the talent and potential of this team, there is no excuse for a 5-5 team to strip your playoff hopes and chance at a Big 12 Championship.
Speaking of the conference title, what does this loss mean for West Virginia’s shot at playing in Dallas on December 1st?
Had West Virginia won this game, and the outcome of Texas/Iowa State remained the same, the Mountaineers’ spot in the title game would be clinched.
The good news?
The possibility of playing the Sooners two weeks in a row (this week followed by the title game) is now off the board.
The bad news?
The loss puts a lot more pressure on this week’s game. Ultimately, the winner of the matchup will head to the championship to take on Texas, assuming they beat Kansas. This is a big deal for a West Virginia team who has been unable to beat the Sooners since joining the conference in 2012.
Technically, a Mountaineer win should be possible. The Oklahoma defense has struggled all season, giving up 302 passing yards per game – the most in the Big 12. Scoring should be somewhat easy for the Mountaineer offense, but it will still be no easy task to beat the Sooners – Oklahoma ranks first nationally in scoring with 49.5 points per game.
The Mountaineers are undefeated at home this season. However, the Sooners have won 19 consecutive true road games, the longest streak in the nation. The atmosphere of Milan Puskar Stadium will have to be absolutely electric to not only end that streak, but also secure the Mountaineers’ spot in the Big 12 Championship.
West Virginia faces the Oklahoma Sooners on Friday, November 23rd. Kickoff is set for 7PM on ESPN.
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